From left, some of the organizers of the FFA event, from left: Ruth Sutton, Emily Smith and Marley Milligan. (Photo by Lissa Blake)
When area residents supported the Decorah FFA this fall through a variety of fundraisers, little did they know the extent of what their money would do.
Last week, the Decorah FFA, with the manpower of the entire Decorah High School student population, packaged 20,000 meals to be sent to the Philippines for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
The FFA raised $5,000 for the meals, each costing 25 cents. A fundraiser at Culver's netted $1,200, and another $3,800 was raised through FFA fruit sales, the Moo Mobile at Nordic Fest and other individual donations.
"In November, we did a fundraiser one evening where the FFA worked at Culver's. Throughout the entire month, customers were asked if they wanted to donate $1. Then they could write the name of a farmer they appreciate on a card to be displayed," said Emily Smith, FFA sentinel.
An idea forms
Smith, along with FFA Reporter Ruth Sutton and Treasurer Marley Milligan, said they got the idea at the state FFA convention.
"I thought it would be a great idea to do it here," said Smith.
Smith added when she traveled to the FFA Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. in June, she was put through some empathy building exercises she would not have otherwise experienced.
"There were some exercises that really made me think about how other people live and how I, myself, can help others who don't have the same opportunities I do," said Smith.
Making it happen
Tuesday evening, Outreach Event Coordinator Ray Perry trained the entire FFA officer team on how to package the meals, so they could train the rest of the volunteers Wednesday morning.
"There is a rice option and a mac and cheese option. It costs us 25 cents a bag, which includes six meals," said Smith.
"To me, sometimes you think its crazy and you don't think you can actually make a difference," said Sutton.
Not just farmers
Smith said in addition to the FFA having a positive influence by helping out the Philippines, she thinks involving the whole community and school will be positive public relations for the FFA.
"We raise money all the time, but people don't always realize that each year we give away more money than we take in through community service projects," said Sutton.
The Decorah FFA uses their fundraising dollars to donate to Relay for Life, the American Red Cross, the Winneshiek County Pork Producers, Winneshiek County Cattlemen, the Fireman's rodeo, safety kits for farmers and more.
"We're hoping to build more awareness about FFA. So many people know if there's a football game or wrestling meet happening, but they don't always think about what the FFA does," said Milligan.
"More and more FFA members are town kids who don't live on a farm and don't have agriculture backgrounds."
"If someone is looking for a good organization, I think FFA sums it all up. We host sporting events, participate in music, and learn things like public speaking and parliamentary procedures," said Smith.
"Now we're sending 20,000 meals to those in need. I think it's something amazing our FFA can do."
Outreach, a non-profit corporation from Union (Iowa), was created in 2004 after its founders returned from a mission trip to Tanzania. The mission of Outreach is to provide safe water, food, medical care and education to children and those in need at home and abroad.
For more information, visit outreachprogram.org.