FORT DEFIANCE — S. Gordon Stewart Middle School’s Future Farmers of America was one of eight Valley organizations chosen Aug. 21 as grant recipients in Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up Committee.

The committee awarded nearly $10,000 in grants to area nonprofit organizations in late August, and more than $30,000 has been awarded in 2019.

Stewart Middle’s FFA received $1,000.

“This kind of money is very important,” said Stewart Middle FFA Advisor Blair Hoffman.

Hoffman, who is also an agriculture teacher at Stewart Middle, said the grant funds are a good start toward approximately $8,000 needed for the FFA to build a barn behind Stewart Middle.

A concrete base is all ready in place for the barn, which has been a vision of Hoffman’s for the FFA members to have chickens, possibly a stall for a dairy cow and to learn more about where their food comes from.

“Obviously, a building project like this is going to take a lot of materials,” Hoffman said.

The funds she receives from Augusta County go toward materials in her classrooms, and Hoffman hopes that community members will come forward to donate supplies and labor to build the barn.

“This gives us a start at least,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman thanked SVEC for its support.

“[The barn is] something I’m passionate about, and I think our kids will be as well,” she said.

Stewart Middle’s FFA will create a “school farm,” according to a press release from SVEC, with the grant funding. The FFA will build a small, dual-purpose barn and greenhouse to show 250 middle school students how food is grown and produced.

The press release said that Operation Round Up “addresses crucial needs within our service territory. Members voluntarily round up their monthly bills to the next even dollar, with funds accumulating in a pool of grant money. A committee of nine members and one SVEC employee then reviews grant applications from area organizations and selects recipients.”

Other grant funding recipients were Families Reaching Out Group (FROG) in Winchester, which will purchase new underwear for children in need; Hope Distributed in Rockingham will purchase food and maintain vehicles that pick up food for the organization’s food pantry; and Elkton Area United Services in Rockingham will direct financial aid for clients through the emergency assistance program, including housing, electric, fuel, water and medication needs.

Launched in the fall of 2017, Operation Round Up has raised more than $54,000. The next grant cycle will begin in January 2020.

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