Hundreds of students from across Virginia were at Graves Mountain Lodge last month, performing a variety of community service events as part of Virginia FFA Leadership Camp.
Each year, students involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA) spend a week at Graves, developing leadership skills and passions for service, 2018-19 Virginia FFA Vice President Clare Seibel said. She said the camp, which has been hosted at Graves for 13 years, coincides with FFA’s mission which is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
“The students spend their mornings in interactive workshops designed to equip them to be better leaders in their communities,” Seibel said. “They then have service projects, recreational time and fun camp activities like a pool Olympics, dance, hayride, etc. for their afternoons and evenings.”
The 103 campers were supported by eight counselors, director LT Trice and assistant camp coordinator Tess Seibel. Among the service projects were some that focused on the local area including one to provide food for students in need during the summer and weekends when school breakfasts and lunches aren’t an option.
“Service events are an integral part of the campers’ experience and enable their service learning,” Clare Seibel said. “We also wanted to serve the local area that is incredibly supportive of FFA. We chose meal packing as our service project because hunger was an issue never addressed by the campers before and we saw a need for this type of project for the summer when free and reduced school lunch is unavailable to those in need.”
To fund the project, Seibel wrote a grant request for the Living to Serve Grant from the National FFA. The grant provided $8,000 and Virginia FFA and the Virginia FFA Foundation purchased an additional 25,000 food items. The food was used to pack 2,500 snack packs with another 3,000 items donated to the Blue Ridge Food Bank.
The snack bags will be distributed via the local Madison Loaves and Fishes program. Established in 2013 by Hebron Lutheran Church and Madison Presbyterian Church, the program provides bags of food, or snack bags, to local children who experience food scarcity issues. The idea is the bags can supplement the breakfast and lunch meals students receive when school is in-session.
According to Margaret Daniel, the FFA compiled snack bags will furnish the Loaves and Fishes program for many months. More than two dozen bags are distributed per week.
In addition to packing the bags, students also spent time serving at various sites in Culpeper and Madison counties, with most of the projects involving site cleanup.
“We believe in servant leadership and instill our members with the same sense of purpose to give back to others and be productive members of their communities,” Seibel said.
For more information about the Virginia FFA, visit https://www.vaffa.org/. For information regarding the local Loaves and Fishes program, call Hebron Lutheran Church at 948-4381.