Education

County FFA chapters fight food insecurity and homelessness

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County members of the Maine FFA Association pitched in recently to help alleviate homelessness and food insecurity in their communities.  

Under a State Day of Service grant from the National FFA Organization, formerly Future Farmers of America, and with an additional $2,000 community grant awarded by Walmart of Presque Isle, along with in kind donations from some local retailers, Maine FFA student members and their chapter advisers worked to organize, pick up and deliver support to a number of different local community service agencies.   

Students in the Caribou FFA chapter gather to deliver donated household items to the Dahlgren-Skidgel Farm of Hope. (Courtesy of Maine FFA Association)

Community service participants included the Sister Mary O’Donnell Emergency Homeless Shelter in Presque Isle, the Dahlgren-Skidgel Farm of Hope in Caribou, Perham Food Cupboard, Washburn Food Pantry and the Presque Isle office of the Aroostook County Action Program, which contributed an educational outreach component to the project. 

Further FFA outreach is being conducted in Cherryfield, Bangor and Waterville.

  The homelessness and food insecurity project was originally slated for the spring of 2020 but with the onset of the coronavirus, items depleted from store shelves and schools limiting outside activities, participants had to wait nearly a year before being able to successfully complete their assistance.  

Ashland FFA chapter representatives sorting out items to be delivered to the homeless shelter in Presque Isle include, from left, Hailee Cunningham, secretary; Willow Hall, member; Alli Kenney, sentinel; and Ava Cameron, president. (Courtesy of Maine FFA Association)

The Ashland FFA group, under the guidance of adviser Janet Perry, purchased from the grants a number of linens, clothes and toiletries for the Presque Isle Homeless Shelter, packing many clothing/toiletry items into individual backpacks for shelter residents.

Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center FFA members, with advisers Vicki McCurry and Shelly Gross, packed up and delivered building paper and cleaning products to the same location, as well as delivering requested linens and clothing items to ACAP in Presque Isle for use by the many clients they service.  

Caribou FFA President Brendan Blackstone delivers household products donated to help those in need during a recent FFA service project. (Courtesy of Maine FFA Association)

In Caribou, FFA members and their adviser, Scott Moir, picked up and brought to the Dahlgren-Skidgel Farm of Hope in Caribou items that had been requested, including linen, paper and cleaning items.  

Mars Hill FFA chapter officers involved in a recent community service project include, from left, back row: Anna Kilcollins, reporter; Delaney McKeen, co-vice president; Lane McCrum, sentinel; Abram McCrum, treasurer; and Ryder Brewer, co-vice president. Front row: Kassidy Blackstone, historian; Samantha McCrum, president; and Libby Grass, junior adviser. Absent from photo: Nickie Deschaine, secretary. (Courtesy of Maine FFA Association)

Mars Hill FFA members and adviser Whitney Williams picked up and delivered cleaning products and toiletries to ACAP in Presque Isle from their “wish list.”  

Washburn FFA students gather donated items to deliver to the Perham Food Cupboard and Washburn Food Pantry.
(Courtesy of Maine FFA Association)

Washburn FFA students and adviser Hollie Umphrey contributed to the project by collecting more than 400 pounds of donated food items to bring to the Perham Food Cupboard and Washburn Food Pantry.  

In all, more than $4,500 in food, clothing and personal items were contributed to local citizens in need.

Sherry Locke, director of advancement at ACAP, and staff members Heidi Rackliffe, Jeannie Fox and Beau Myrick created an educational YouTube video for FFA students to better acquaint them with issues of homelessness, and delivered a live Zoom panel presentation to present further information and to answer student questions.

  The FFA homelessness and food insecurity project brought local FFA students, teachers, community organizations and businesses together as they united to assist citizens in need.

Anyone interested in participating in a grade 7-12 FFA program may contact any Aroostook County program, or consider starting a chapter associated with an agriculture and natural resources course at their own school.  

For further information, contact Doug Robertson, Maine FFA State Advisor, (207) 624-6744, doug.robertson@maine.gov.

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