Living to Serve. Those last three words of the FFA Motto hold so much meaning. For one Missouri FFA chapter, those words were put into action recently when they constructed a community house for the homeless.
Greenville FFA is only four years old and home to just 50 members, but when their FFA advisor mentioned a homeless community in need in the East St. Louis area, the students immediately wanted to help.
“Along with teaching ag, I am an Army Reserve Chaplain. I was at a meeting at Fort Bragg, North Carolina last spring when I met another chaplain and learned of a homeless community of veterans and civilians in the East St. Louis area,” said Scott Payne, Greenville FFA Advisor. “When I told my FFA students about it, they wanted to do something to help.”
The chapter decided to build a small building that could house two people and still fit on the school’s flatbed trailer. Payne said most of the Greenville FFA members worked on the project throughout its various phases. Only a few had any prior construction experience. However, Payne, who also taught industrial technology for the district since 2002, said it was a good teaching tool to show them frame construction.
“They took ownership of the project and worked very hard,” Payne said. “I could not be more pleased with their work.”
That work included soliciting material donations from various local and national chain suppliers. Payne said surprisingly, all the donations came from local suppliers as the national chains had too many hoops to go through at the national level to get the materials to the chapter in time. A local sawmill donated the lumber. A local metal supplier donated the roof and siding metal. Monetary donations came in to purchase insulation, windows, and more.
Payne said there were no permit restrictions to go through since the students built the building in the school shop and then moved it to the location. The house includes a set of bunk beds and a small nightstand. While the house does not have electricity or plumbing, the home owners will have access to a space heater.
The house is now located in East St. Louis and home to a civilian couple. It is on 4×6 skids so it can be moved around as they need.
“The house was well received,” Payne said. “We left it up to the community who got the house.”
While Greenville FFA hails from a very rural district with forestry and cattle being the main ag industries, the homeless shelter project is one the chapter would like to continue.
In fact Payne says the next year’s project is half-funded already. The chapter is also working with the chaplain Payne met last year, as he is organizing a non-profit organization that could help place the houses.
“The student response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Payne said. “They enjoyed the process itself, but more enjoyed knowing they were working on something that could help improve or even save someone’s life.”