Last month a Raymond Central FFA Alumni member received a special delivery in his driveway — a restored 3010 John Deere tractor. It was a project Leland Novacek had always wanted to get done until cancer got in the way.
An alumni member of Raymond Central FFA for over 30 years and a former Nebraska FFA Alumni Board of Directors for another 10 years, Leland had put off restoring his beloved tractor once his cancer treatments started.
“At first, he wanted to sell it, but then decided he would rather redo it and keep it,” said Les Hornung, a Raymond Central FFA alumni member and friend of Leland’s for the past 30 plus years. “Last fall, we found out he wanted to get it done and in January a group of us decided we better finish it for him.”
It took about 15 volunteers to get the tractor done. First it went to Malmo, Nebraska to Ryan Welton’s shop to get some mechanical work done and then it ended up in Les’ shop in Bradshaw to get painted and put back together.
In all, it took about three months to finish.
While Raymond Central FFA Alumni did all the work, the project was completely funded by donations for the tractor and Leland’s family. One such donor was the Raymond Central FFA.
“I attended the Washington Leadership Conference this past summer and developed the idea to host a dance to benefit a member of our community,” said Miranda Hornung, Raymond Central FFA Chapter President. “When Leland’s heath took a turn, we did not hesitate to select him as the recipient.”
Leland and his wife, Cheryl, have been two extremely active members of the Raymond Central FFA chapter. Whether it was chapter contest practices, local proficiency interviews, or alumni events, Miranda said Leland was always there.
“The kids truly appreciate and admire his dedication to our chapter and the FFA,” Miranda said.
Raymond Central FFA hosted their first annual “Kick Your Boots Up Benefit Dance” during National FFA week and invited five surrounding FFA chapters to attend and participate. From dance admission and t-shirt sales, the members raised $450. The chapter also held a “Kiss the Lamb” contest during FFA week where students could donate money to the bucket of the FFA member and teacher that they wanted to see kiss a lamb during the pep rally at the end of the week. From that event, another $200 was raised, making the grand total to give to Leland $650.
All of this good work was a secret Leland’s friends kept from him until the day they delivered the tractor.
“His reaction was priceless. A lot of tears were shed and all he could say is ‘you guys,’” Les said “He thanked us over and over for doing it.”
“The chapter officers from Raymond Central went to deliver the money to Leland, and I have to say that there was not a dry eye in that room. Those tears turned into smiles as Leland looked out the window to discover his beloved tractor pulling into his driveway,” Miranda said. “The look on his face was truly a sight I won’t forget and I am so grateful to have been part of this uplifting experience for Leland.”
While the restored tractor now resides in Leland’s shop, where from time to time he walks out and sits by it, it’s a project that Les and the other alumni would undertake again in a heartbeat.
“We would do this again if called upon,” Les said. “It is not about the highlights and newspaper articles, it is about doing the right thing to help people.”