The Indiana FFA Leadership Center is a unique Hoosier resource that has survived despite predictions of doom and gloom from outside sources along the way. The center has seen ups and downs. Now, the Indiana FFA Foundation Board believes it is time to pay off the debt left on the center once and for all. The foundation has initiated a Pay It Forward campaign to do so.
The center's director, Joe Park, spent more than four decades in the classroom before coming to his current post more than four years ago. Recently, he wrote a letter to Indiana FFA advisors explaining what the center means to him. It’s reprinted with his permission, and edited for space.
Dear FFA Advisor,
I would like to add my thoughts about the Pay It Forward campaign.
• Few, if any, of you can remember the dedication of the center in 1969. I was there on that hot July day. I can remember the excitement of our founding fathers like Ned Stump, Nelson Lewis, Bill McVay, Don Shuppert and Kenny Brashaber. They were thrilled to finally have a home for the Indiana FFA. They had big dreams and high hopes.
• Fred McLamore of Purdue University was the first part-time director. He envisioned the center would be paid off in three to five years, and would become a great source of revenue for Indiana FFA.
• I remember the kitchen when it was outside in the shed. Advisors did all the cooking on grills.
• We went to Franklin and Indian Creek high schools for showers during camps.
• We had summer ag teacher workshops at the center. Mature teachers shared teaching tricks with the beginning teachers.
• We met one day during fall recess to help with odd jobs around the center.
• As a young, inexperienced teacher, I remember sitting around campfires listening to some of those founding fathers relate stories about their experiences with FFA members.
These are just a few of the fond memories I have of the FFA center over the past 40-plus years, and why I would like to see the center free from debt and a source of pride and revenue for Indiana FFA. I think, with the help of many FFA advisors and chapters, the center is now a place for which we can all be proud. The FFA center committee and staff have been a tremendous support in moving us forward.
While this campaign is moving forward, the FFA center committee is already putting a game plan together to ask the state Legislature for funding in the next session. The center needs money for renovating all the asphalt on the property, a new public shower facility and another cabin. We will never be able to afford them from our own revenue sources.
Some have asked what will keep us from refinancing the center again. If it gets paid off, refinancing will not happen on my watch. The center and the foundation are in better financial positions than ever in the history of either entity. The foundation, center and many chapters have invested more than $300,000 in materials and donations in the past three years. We have concerned, dedicated leadership from the foundation board, center committee and foundation director.
I’ve asked much from you in the past. I’m grateful for all who have contributed, and I’m doing everything possible to make the Indiana FFA Leadership Center a profitable asset and not a detriment to Indiana FFA.
Tom J. Bechman is a member of the Indiana FFA Center Committee.