“We knew it was going to be a tough time for students who typically look forward to so many in-person events throughout the year,” said John Arthur, chapter president and product line marketing manager at John Deere. “If there was going to be an opportunity for us to still mentor and support students in this new virtual world, we were going to find a way to do it.”
And indeed, they did, giving more than 700 volunteer hours through a variety of efforts, including assisting with virtual judging at career and leadership development events across the country.
In addition to donating time, the chapter also raised much-needed funds for National FFA and state FFA associations. In 2020, the chapter contributed more than $91,000—compared to just over $66,000 in the previous year. This impressive total included both individual donations as well as matches provided by the John Deere Foundation.
“I think that really speaks to the generosity of our chapter members,” Arthur said. “While we didn’t get to be face-to-face with students like we usually strive to do, we found ways to support them financially.”
The members who make up the John Deere FFA Alumni and Supporters Chapter contribute to Give FFA Day individually. The chapter started in 2014 as a grassroots effort with 12 members and it has now grown to more than 300 members.
Benjamin Zelle, product marketing manager for John Deere, said that while the company itself is quite big, what’s even bigger is the generosity of the people working behind the scenes.
“It’s been really rewarding for me to see how our leadership has contributed every year during Give FFA Day and how engaged our membership is,” Zelle said. “Our goal as members is to create as much energy and joy around the idea of giving because FFA is an organization that has had a huge impact on us.”
In addition to fundraising efforts, members saw the value in connecting with the students they were supporting. Brea Harms, division customer support manager for John Deere, helped link chapter members to different virtual events throughout the year.
She views the virtual opportunities as a blessing in disguise for the chapter.
“Our job is to find those opportunities and connect them to the right people,” Harms said. “That became especially true in 2020. We were able to connect people to opportunities across the country that, if they hadn’t been virtual, I’m not sure we would be able to participate. Our members had opportunities that truly broadened their horizons.”