Windom FFA finds way to support the troopsWINDOM — While FFA chapters across the state do traditional activities like corn drives and fruit sales, sending members to judging contests and leadership trainings, the Windom High School FFA Chapter has taken a unique approach in its service to the community.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WINDOM — While FFA chapters across the state do traditional activities like corn drives and fruit sales, sending members to judging contests and leadership trainings, the Windom High School FFA Chapter has taken a unique approach in its service to the community.
A few years ago, when several area National Guardsmen were deployed to Iraq, the FFA chapter wanted to do their part to let soldiers know they were being supported back at home.
As community packing parties began to organize in the community, the FFA chapter contacted the Minnesota Nice campaign, where it was given the name of a soldier who wasn’t getting any care packages from home.
That soldier has since returned home, as has the second soldier the FFA chapter “adopted.”
The chapter recently received the name of a third soldier, and have yet to hear back from him as its first care packages have been mailed off to Iraq.
“We set a goal for our chapter to be more involved in our community,” said Chelsey Johnson, a Windom High School junior and president of the school’s FFA chapter. While the soldiers they have supported weren’t from the Windom area — or Minnesota, for that matter — the FFA members are glad to offer their encouragement and support through monthly care packages.
At first, FFA members were asked to donate items for the care packages, but as it became more difficult to get items collected on time, chapter officers were tasked with buying the items and getting them ready for shipment.
Johnson and Andrea Muller, chapter vice president, go to the local Pamida store each month to buy everything from sunflower seeds and snack foods to personal care items like deodorant.
“It’s so open when you’re shopping for someone you haven’t met before,” said Johnson. “You figure you can’t go wrong with food.”
The officers also take turns writing letters, and include one with each care package they ship.
The chapter spends about $30 per month on the items, which fill a flat-rate shipping box. Funds raised through the chapter’s annual corn drive and fruit sale cover the costs of the program.
“We haven’t gotten a lot of response from our current soldier,” said Johnson, adding that they received hand-written letters from the second soldier they adopted, and received e-mails from the first soldier.
“So far we’ve been pretty lucky that none of our (adopted soldiers) have been killed,” said chapter adviser Darcy Dahna.
The chapter has no plans to discontinue the care package program.
“It’s something that we’re really proud to be doing for our community as a whole and our FFA chapter,” said Johnson. “It’s a small thing that we do, but it has such a big impact. Small things can do a lot for our community, and it doesn’t take a lot to do it.”
In addition to adopting a soldier, the Windom FFA Chapter has offered its assistance to local families in need of assistance if their loved one is currently deployed in the military.
While local Guardsmen were serving in Iraq, chapter members volunteered to help mow lawns, do snow removal and even get groceries for families who were struggling to keep up with all of the work.
The Windom FFA Chapter has other ways to serve its community as well. Last year, the chapter hosted a Kiss the Pig contest at school whereby students donated items for the local food shelf in order to vote for the teacher they wanted to see kiss a pig.
Also, a portion of the proceeds the chapter earns from its annual Corn Drive is used to help send children to Camp Courage during the summer.
“That’s been going on for a long time,” said Johnson.
Any money left over from the Corn Drive and Fruit Sale is used to fund projects for the FFA Chapter. Most recently, the chapter purchased laptops for its CDE teams to use during practice.