After fundraising and small donations and a great deal of work, their campus barn was in mid-construction when the storm struck and destroyed their farm area. Their greenhouse was also heavily damaged. Now, thanks to a $50,000 grant donation from Lowe’s, the club will have a bigger, better barn and greenhouse than they had hoped for.
Chuck Williams, FFA advisor and RHS Agriculture teacher, is excited about how the grant is going to strongly supplement the FFA educational opportunities. Williams said horticulture has always been a strong field of study, but over the years the students have shown an increasing desire to develop and learn about the livestock aspect of the program.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Georgia,” said Williams. “There are so many jobs avail-able out there. We’ve always had a greenhouse and the students have grown flowers and sold them, but over the years, they’ve shown a need and desire for education about the animals. I knew if we could combine the plants and the animals, we’d be able to increase their education about the whole industry. With a better farm, we can enhance their education, and hopefully, teach them how to support their community in return.”
Williams said having the barn would enable them to buy a few head of dairy cattle, allowing the students to go through the whole process of learning how to raise and show livestock. Out of 130 club members, 21 have already signed up to learn to show. The school has allotted about an acre and a half of land between the Chickamauga Creek and the baseball field for the cattle. Students will now be able to have classes in the barn to learn how to groom and care for the animals. The grant will also be used to rebuild and repair the greenhouse.
Lowe’s human resources manager Cynthia Overby said every year the Lowe’s in each region gives substantial donations to schools that have either lost their funding or have a specific need. This year, four grants of $50,000 were specifically designated to be given away in the southeastern region for schools suffering from natural disas-ters, one of which went to Ringgold. Overby said she contacted Catoosa director of operations Damon Raines, who helped her choose and coordinate the project.
During 2011 alone, Lowe’s and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation (LCEF) has pledged $4 million to be used in disaster relief efforts at home and abroad. They have helped with monetary funds, product and on-the-ground assistance during tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires. Lowe’s Toolbox for Education provides the financial tools to improve schools throughout the U.S. and has donated $26 million to 6,000 K-12 public schools since 2006, benefiting more than 3 million schoolchildren.
Sean Cannon, district manager for the Chattanooga Lowe’s, and Lowe’s representative Jesse Wilson were also present for the donation.
“It’s an amazing feeling knowing these students are so happy about the grant,” said Cannon. “It’s a gift that con-tinues to give on and on, which makes it an exciting thing for Lowe’s. We believe we are contributing to a cause that’s important to our customers and employees and helping build a stronger foundation for the children who will be tomorrow’s employees, homeowners and community leaders. Today, we celebrate the wonderful rebuilding plans for Ringgold High School. We’re delighted to help invest in the education of our future leaders. Congratula-tions to the students and staff at Ringgold, and we look forward to following your progress.”
Williams said due to the rainy weather, rebuilding is going rather slow, but the community is already getting in-volved. Robert Mashburn Equipment of Ringgold has offered free labor and equipment to assist in prep of the area, and plans for a “Raise the Barn” outreach weekend by springtime are already in the making.