WIU ag alumni are part of FFA efforts to help tornado damaged Mayfield


Supplies destined for Mayfield, KY are wrapped in stretch film prior to loading.
A sign reading, "Illinois FFA Chapter Tornado Relief Effort in Western KY" is seen taped to packages of supplies bound for Mayfield, KY
Supplies bound for Mayfield, KY are seen in the back of a semi-trailer.
The supplies are loaded onto a flatbed trailer.

MACOMB, IL – “If the need arises, the answer is simple, help.”

These are the words of Riley Hintzsche, a Western Illinois University alumnus, agricultural educator and FFA advisor at Streator Township High School, in reference to a collaborative project to bring needed supplies to storm-ravaged Mayfield, KY.

When Hintzsche, 2014 graduate and WIU alumnus, 2016 graduate, Mitch Miller, an agriculture teacher at Midwest Central High School in Manito, IL, heard about the tornado that hit Mayfield, KY on December 10 , both knew they had to take action. Both were immediately contacted by Jesse Faber, an agriculture teacher and FFA counselor at Pontiac High School, and the man both called the “leader” of the collection efforts to put together supplies to send to the country. region.

Hintzsche and Faber are friends with Mayfield, KY, school administrator and former district agriculture teacher Richard Horn, and have contacted him about the needs of the area. In just six days, trucks loaded with supplies headed south.

“As agricultural teachers, we are fortunate to have a very large network of people to get advice from, ask to work with our students, and ultimately appeal in times of crisis,” Hintzsche said. “Well, when people asked us what we were doing, we used our resources. The Streator FFA team of officers posted a social media post for our community, resulting in many donations from members of the local community. “

One of Hintzsche’s former students, Ali Talty, is the store manager of Streator RP Home and Harvest and has donated two pallets of water and helped purchase pallets of cat and dog food and pine shavings. A parent of another former student called the Ottawa Community Food Bank, who donated seven pallets of items.

“We are part of a large network of agriculture teachers and farming enthusiasts who ultimately had no physical means to donate, so they donated cash, trusting Jesse and the team to buy some. things on their behalf, ”Hintzsche said.

Miller said he originally believed the answer would fit into a few pickup trucks, but donations reached a point where larger vehicles were needed to hold all the supplies.

“The donation campaign has intensified beyond what I had imagined,” Miller said. “We quickly got to a point where a 53ft semi-trailer and enclosed van was going to be needed and beyond. I contacted contacts I had regarding borrowing such equipment and we (many were involved in it) made it happen. “

Armed with an Illinois Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), Miller and others drove three large trucks, filled with supplies collected through the effort, all the way to Kentucky. The trip began in Peoria, Ill. On Dec. 17, stopping at 5 Star Water, owned by a Miller School District community member, to add seven discount pallets of water to the truck. .

The trailer traveled to Manito, then to Pontiac to collect donations from the Midwest Central, Streator and Pontiac school districts and to organize transportation.

Faber said more than 90 donations of cash and other items have been dropped off at the Pontiac school. This total includes two FFA chapters who combined their efforts and showed up with three vehicles full of donations. A contribution truck was also delivered from Platteville, WI, and local individuals and businesses.

“On Saturday morning, December 18, the three-load convoy left for Mayfield, stopping on I-57 to retrieve items from other FFA chapters including Charleston, Sullivan, Olney and others,” Miller said. “We arrived at Graves County High School in the early evening and unloaded the three trucks of donated goods with Graves County High School administrator and former agriculture teacher Richard Horn and agriculture teacher Kelvin Howard. We filled their store with the donated items that came out of Illinois. Some of the water pallets had to be stored outside for the evening as there was no room in their store.

After delivering the donations, Horn took the volunteers for a drive through the devastation.

“I thought I was in a war zone – houses razed to the ground, businesses crammed together, streets barely clear enough to walk through,” Miller said. “The photos I saw on social media in the week leading up to the trip were seen in person. Richard told us that 60 to 70 students and eight staff had lost their homes.”

Miller said a second trip to deliver donations is planned before the start of the spring semester. He said local volunteers were awaiting confirmation from Mayfield on the specific items needed.

“I am very proud of my team of FFA officers and the Midwest Central school community,” Miller said. “Their efforts have contributed over $ 2,000 in monetary donations and three pallets of donated sundries. Before returning home, Agriculture Professor Kelvin Howard put it best, saying,“ Hard times do not last. not, but difficult people do. “”

WIU School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said he was extremely proud of the University’s agriculture alumni, who did not hesitate to respond to a critical situation.

“Leatherneck Pride is everywhere, and we need to celebrate those Leathernecks who step up and act in times of crisis,” Baker said. “Many hands are doing light work, and the Illinois Agricultural Education family has come together to help the Kentucky Agricultural Education family, which is facing a devastating crisis. I am very proud of our alumni for being so proactive in this. I also want to thank all of those people who have come together to donate to this cause and those who will continue to donate until the town of Mayfield is rebuilt. It is a moment of great pride for the Leatherneck Nation. “

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