FFA Gives Back

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA Chapters donate more than 26,450 magazines to U.S. troops

In the wake of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, many Americans are looking for ways to help support those servicemen and women who are supporting us overseas.

That's why, when Mariah Dale-Anderson, Special Services Manager for the Illinois Farm Bureau's (IFB) Youth Education in Agriculture (YEA), saw the opportunity to help fill a need for U.S. soldiers, she jumped at the chance.

"We had been following the Illinois National Guard's 1-14th Agribusiness Development Team on Facebook for a while when they posted a request for magazines to help them stay connected with events at home," Dale-Anderson said. "We decided we could help them with their request by making it a challenge for FFA chapters."

Dale-Anderson put the word out on the IFB's YEA Facebook page, asking Illinois FFA chapters to bring any magazines they could collect - new or used - to the IFB's tent at this year's Farm Progress Show, held Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 in Decatur, Ill. The chapter that collected and donated the most magazines would win a new iPad for their chapter. And, Dale-Anderson said, that's when things got interesting.

"We initially thought we would have a few thousands magazines donated, but 26,457 magazines later, we were just blown away by the FFA members' support," Dale-Anderson said. "The magazine drive exceeded our expectations - we were shocked and overwhelmed by the support the magazine drive received."

In fact, FFA chapters across the state were engaged with the magazine drive almost immediately, Dale-Anderson said. As soon as the drive was posted to the IFB's YEA Facebook page, Illinois agriculture teachers posted it to their own Facebook pages, building excitement up until the first day of the Farm Progress Show.

"FFA chapters brought magazines in by the box load, determined to participate," Dale-Anderson said. "Some chapters gave a few hundred magazines, knowing they weren't going to win, but donated because they wanted to be a part of it and give back to the troops."

Jeff Landers, Mendota FFA chapter advisor and agriculture teacher, said giving back to the troops was the reason his students wanted to participate in the magazine drive, too.

"The students just thought it was a really worthwhile project," Landers said. "It was a good activity to start the year with and the students felt the need to give those soldiers some comforts from home."

Of course, the possibility of winning an iPad for the chapter wasn't bad, either. Landers gave his students the goal of collecting 1,000 magazines and said his students stepped up to the plate, visiting doctors' officers and family friends and spending the next several evening spreading the word. Before long, the Mendota FFA chapter had collected 4,965 magazines - enough to bring the iPad home to their chapter and keep the 1-14th in reading material for a long time.

"One of the things we're always looking for is ways to improve our chapter and winning an iPad would help us educate other people about agriculture," said Evan Peach, chapter reporter and Section 7 president. "Plus, it was extremely important to give the troops a modest gift as a thank you for everything they do for us."

Additionally, the chapter will be able to use applications available through Apple to help prepare and practice for career development events (CDEs). In the end, it was impressive how willing the community was to help, added Mendota Chapter President John Jenkins.

"Everybody was willing to give their old magazines," Jenkins said. "Every time we asked they would say, 'Oh, yeah, we've got piles of magazines. We'll send them over.'"

Chapter treasurer, Sarah Doughty, echoed Jenkins' sentiment.

"It really was easy to get everyone involved," Doughty said. "We even had a few of the kids in our chapter videotape thank you messages for the troops at the Farm Bureau's tent during the Farm Progress Show. A couple of our former members are in the armed services, so it seemed like the right thing to do."

For Dale-Anderson, the success of the magazine drive is an excellent example of just how grateful people are for service of U.S. troops.

"This was our first time doing this and we certainly didn't expect the results we got," Dale-Anderson said. "I'm not sure what we'll do to top this in the future, but given this year's response, we'll definitely do something similar again."