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Emotions Run High on FFA Center Decision

Father who lost an FFA daughter states his views.

The biggest watershed moment in nearly 40 years of the history of the Indiana FFA Center could be only days away. The Indiana FFA Foundation Board, which actually owns and operates the 168-acre facility near Trafalgar, will reportedly discuss the future of the facility at its June meeting, perhaps in a matter of days.

Options reportedly on the table from inside sources include keeping the Center as is and resigning to the fact that it will lose money, but still support FFA activities; sell a portion of the property to acquire cash to keep the rest; move forward and remodel the main lodge to try to attract more business clients; and finally, sell the entire Center. Coffee shop talk puts the value of the property as it is at $2 million, more or less.

What would the Indiana FFA Association - the group supported by the Foundation that actually trains young people, conducts contests, provides housing for state officers and much more - do if the Center is sold? There are several theories circulating, including training in hotels, building a smaller facility on less land just for FFA members, to putting the money where it could earn interest to support programs. But if those wishing to sell the facility have a clear plan, it's the one thing that hasn't been made public yet.

As you might imagine, emotions run high - on both sides. Word on the street is that the FFA student leadership themselves are developing solid proposals that could help save the Center. On the other hand, there seem to be those business-minded people who feel the Center has strangled growth of the organization long enough.

Indiana Prairie Farmer expressed an opinion in the June issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer Says, primarily pointing out the emotional side vs. the trials and tribulations of keeping the facility solvent, which started almost the day the ink was dry on the deed. Whatever decision is made, it would appear that now is the time to go one way or the other. Too many times in the past, well-meaning people have made well-intended efforts to raise money or revamp programs, only to have them fall far short of the goal. Just enough is raised to scrape by. Soon the issue is forgotten - until there isn't enough money to pay bills again.

This time management of the facility is one of the tails wagging the dog, forcing the issue. Jonathon Byrd's Cafeteria, Greenwood, managed the facility for two years, with the contract expiring July 31, '07. Initial indications are that the contract will not be renewed.

Our editorial drew a unique 'Letter to the Editor' from someone with perhaps more at stake in the Indiana FFA and the Indiana FFA Center than most. Frank James' daughter was killed in a car accident after attending an FFA event. Memorial donations from families who lost loved ones were used to build the beautiful A-framed Fellowship Hall, which sits on the back part of the property. The foyer to this building displays pictures of former FFA members who have passed on.

Here his Mr. James letter, in its entirety.

Dear editor;
Your closing comment in your editorial about the possible sale of the FFA Leadership Center is the closest to the truth. It is NOT possible to strip out all emotion concerning the center, especially so if you are a parent of an FFA member honored on the walls of the Fellowship Center.

As one who was involved in the building of the Fellowship Center since the very beginning, I must say it is disingenuous if not intellectually dishonest to say emotion should not be part of this decision-making process.

As for our family and the families of those honored on the Fellowship Center walls all I can say is 'betrayal' is more than a word in the dictionary. How can any reasonable person discuss the sale and possible destruction of a building that is less than seven years old and still worth more than $500,000?

My feeling is the way this whole issue has been handled will taint the Indiana FFF for a number of years. It will certainly cause someone wanting to contribute a memorial for their loved ones who were active in the FFA to think twice about the way the Foundation Board acknowledges and honors their memorial grants.

Sincerely yours,
Frank W. James, father of Valerie V. James
Wolcott, Ind.

Stay tuned to for updates on the future of the center and the Indiana FFA.

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