It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for the 12 to 15 Navajo FFA members chosen to make the journey from Oklahoma to the National FFA Convention each year. Last year one of their own even brought home a National FFA Award. Luke Mueller was only one of two Oklahomans and one of 42 nationally to receive the honor. The chapter couldn’t have been prouder.
“This trip is a trip of a lifetime as a lot of these students would never get the opportunity to visit and see the places we visit on our way to and from convention,” said Scott McCombs, Navajo FFA Advisor. “We usually try to take around 12-15 students each year as this is a very expensive trip, but one I feel is very worthwhile.”
But when several of their southern Oklahoma neighboring communities went up in flames this spring, the Navajo FFA chapter knew they needed to put the 2018 trip on the back burner and help.
The 38-member chapter was in the midst of planning for their labor auction – the primary fundraiser used to fund the trip to Nationals each year – when several bad fires broke out in the community. The town of Martha lost around 15 homes. There were also numerous grass fires, a cotton compress fire, and a fire at the local cotton seed receiving plant. All of the local fire departments’ funds had been depleted.
McCombs asked the Navajo FFA officer team to try and come up a with a plan to help as many people as they could.
“I told the team that I thought we should go ahead and have our labor auction, explain to the crowd before we ever start what some of the funds would be used for and proceed forward,” McCombs said.
The morning before the labor auction Navajo FFA members determined they wanted to provide assistance to six local fire departments: Warren, Friendship, Headrick, Martha, Olustee, and Blair. They also wanted to help the citizens of Martha who had lost belongings and decided to give that money to the Martha Road Baptist Church where the funds could be distributed to those who needed it the most. Navajo FFA also couldn’t forget about their friends to the North that were affected by the wildfires and decided to send some money to the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association where 100 percent of those funds would go to those affected by the fires.
The only money the chapter planned to keep from the labor auction was for expenses for putting on the event. The rest would go to help others.
“The FFA motto this year is I Can, We Will. This motto is what we took as a challenge to help as many people as we could,” McCombs said.
And the crowd at the labor auction stepped up to that challenge as well. Typically, the Navajo FFA brings in about $8,000 to $9,000. This year’s auction brought in over $18,000.
“I for one can say that there were many tears shed that night, as these people all reached deep into their pockets to allow us to help those in need,” McCombs said. “We never thought we could have done this amount and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of these people.”
After expenses were taken out, each of the six local fire departments received $1,100, Martha Road Baptist Church collected $6,500, and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association took in $1,000.
After the labor auction, Navajo FFA learned that they would be receiving a grant they had applied for from the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation. They plan to take that additional $1,000 and divide up among the six fire departments.
McCombs said the chapter has had many people in the community inquire how they will fund the trip to National FFA Convention now and have offered to help if needed. Right now, the chapter will lean on their funds from their annual Blue & Gold Sausage sales.
McCombs said the auction was just a small token of their appreciation for what these groups do for the community and state.
“We are very happy to be able to help with the generous donations by businesses and individuals in our community and each one of the 38 FFA members pitching in to help,” McCombs said. “The FFA Motto says it all, I CAN, WE WILL.”