NEW PARIS — National Trail Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) FFA held its fifth annual Bags of Hope event on Thursday, Nov. 21. Students volunteered their time to pack 500 bags of food containing two meals each — providing 1,000 meals for Preble County families during the holiday season.
According to FFA Advisor Eric Kennel, this event began years ago when chapter members saw a similar project at the National FFA Convention. The students wanted to help their community and created Bags of Hope.
The first year, they packed only 250 bags, but they have since increased it to 500 bags.
“The program is identified to show our students what it truly means to give back to the community they live in. We have families in our community in need and the capability through grant work to get some money that can be invested back into the community through this meal program. We host this program right before Thanksgiving, to give families extra meals around break time. We want to help them out and kick off the wintertime with good, hot meals,” Kennel said.
Each year, the chapter applies for grants to fund this project. This year, National Trail MVCTC FFA received funding from Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio FFA Foundation. The bags for the food were donated through Beck’s Hybrids.
“I really like how the kids saw the need of disparity in the county and how they all came together to assist in filling that need. They might be seeing people in the community they are actually effecting – that is rewarding for students to see that they are a least helping the cause during the holiday season,” Cathy Corbitt, Ohio Department of Agriculture Deputy Director of Children Initiatives, said.
“These are our future leaders! For them to see and take initiative is hopefully something that will carry on throughout their adult life and pass on to their children as well.”
Micaela Wright, Public Information Officer at Ohio Department of Agriculture, added, “I think this event is really awesome. I’ve grown up close to this community and its great to see them getting involved, directly effecting people they know in their community.”
Bags of Hope is organized by the students themselves. This gives them the opportunity to learn about service work and give back to the community in an intimate way.
Second-year FFA member Madison Myers knows they are helping more people in the community, due to the rural nature of Preble County.
“We don’t live in a very rich community, so it helps out a lot more people than it would if we lived in a richer community,” she said. “Part of the FFA Motto is, ‘Living to serve.’ If we do this, we are serving our community, which is what we’re trying to teach our members. We’re serving our community by giving them food.”
Second-year FFA member Brianne Kosier enjoys helping others in her school district, specifically, students who might benefit from their families receiving a bag.
“We get to help others in my school that I would know. I don’t know that they’re getting the bags, but I know there are people in our schools that do need help,” she said.
Second-year FFA member Hannah Lee had the opportunity to be a part of the entire process of Bags of Hope. She helped load the bus, unload the bus, sort the food, and prepare bags.
“It was good to see it all the way though and know I’m making an impact on my community,” Lee said. “We’re helping people who really need it. Even though I don’t know who I’m helping, I know I am giving someone a better situation than what they had before.
“This project helps show the members that we need to give back. It helps teach us what is needed to be the best person we can be. We’re showing our members what we want them to do, and how we want them to be involved to make other places better. This is a hands-on experience to practice that.”
FFA Chapter Treasurer Sara Norton likes to see all of her peers contribute to Bags of Hope. It is optional for the students to donate their time, they are not required to participate in Bags of Hope, but approximately 95 students still volunteered with packing bags.
“Having everybody excited about how many bags we’ve done in a short amount of time is cool to see,” she said.
Second-year FFA member Lily Bowerman enjoys seeing how much the volunteers care about making an impact and how seriously they take the project.
“You don’t see anybody goofing off, making fun of it, or anything, so you can really see how much appreciation people have for this event,” she said. “Bags of Hope really shows what FFA is about. We have so many mottoes and quotes that express how we’re supposed to give back and support others. It is important that we live those mottoes and those standards we’re given.”
Abbey Rodefer FFA Chapter President thinks it is important for the FFA Chapter to give back to the community that supports them.
“We’ve very community driven and our community really gives us a lot, so we really want to give back. I like that we give back to our community,” she said. “
These bags will go to the Community Success Liaisons in all five school districts and food pantries throughout Preble County.
“That was really why we upped the number from 250 bags to 500 bags, because we wanted obviously to help our school district, but students wanted to invest in the rest of the county. We are agriculturally related, Preble County is an agricultural county, so we need to help the whole county,” Kennel said.
“From this program, I hope our students understand the positive impact they are making on a family. Maybe one meal they packaged today will go home to a family who wasn’t going to have dinner, and now they have dinner for that night. I hope [students] understand that impact of what they’re providing to our local families.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH