West Grand FFA fans the flames of kindness

FFFAA members, members, Allison and Emma Daly stand in front of a stack of donations. Distribution of donated items is being coordinated through Outbreak of Kindness. To volunteer, or if you need items, call Julie Savage at 402-910-0763.

by Kim Cameron
The second largest wildfire in Colorado’s history left its mark in Grand County.

The East Troublesome Fire engulfed 192,457 acres and destroyed and damaged 589 structures – 366 of which were homes in the Grand Lake area.

And for the West Grand FFA students, it prompted a call to action and fanned the flames of kindness.

“Our FFA officers put the call out to FFA chapters around the state to chip in with donations after the East Troublesome Fire. The outpouring of kindness was so great that we ended up collecting more than we thought possible,” explained West Grand FFA advisor, Jacob Walter, who compares the donated items to three mini-buses filling the Vo-Ag shop. “This works out to be about three tons of bottled water, clothes, blankets, shoes and boots, winter clothes, food, toys, hygiene products, pet food and household items.”

The chapter also collected $2000 for the Grand County Wildfire Fund. “We had a huge outpouring from SoRoCo FFA and Plateau Valley FFA,” he says of the donations that rolled in.

As with any donations of items, sorting can be labor intensive and take time. “The kids worked hard to sort out the different categories of donations and food items,” said Walter of his FFA students, but he admits there is still more sorting to do.

For distribution and help to manage the donations, the FFA students partnered with volunteer Julie Savage who oversees the Outbreak of Kindness in Kremmling. “She has done amazing work to organize and distribute donations. We are all very grateful for her and all she does for Grand County,” says Walter.

“Outbreak of Kindness, along with our other community partners, has been great at getting resources out to people in our community who are in need of support.”

The impact of the donations are already being felt in the community. Savage illustrates how being able to give a full bag of dog food to those in need can make a huge difference. “Dog food is expensive, and we were able to give them a full bag of dog food this week. I’m sure it doesn’t seem like much to some people, but a $50 bag of dog food takes a good chunk of some people’s pay, and now they have $50 for the next week or to fix that tire that just blew, etc.”

She continues, “I have had a good number of people stop in and walk away with a good sized bag or two of clothing, dog food, shoes, blankets and toiletries. These folks have been so grateful for all of the donations available to them. I love seeing people come together and help each other out. You just never know when it could be you needing help.”

FFA students agree with her sentiments, “Helping others in a time of need teaches us to be kinder. That kindness can always be repaid, and one good deed always generates another,” says sophomore Rigo Castillo.

“I think it is important that people help each other because people can’t always do things for themselves,” adds junior Galen Wilkinson, “After something as devastating as the fires our county experienced, it is important that people help each other and know that if something happens to them, that others will have their backs and support them.”

Freshman Tannar Smiley finishes, “I think it is important that the Ag Program and FFA help the community when possible because we are a part of the community around us. Our community was founded on agriculture, and we play a role in educating the next generation. By playing a positive role in the community, we are giving back and encouraging that sense of community.”