The hour was early, but the enthusiasm was high when Joe Kelsay addressed about 100 parents, community members and FFA students at Franklin Community High School during an FFA week breakfast. Kelsay is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
A former member of the Whiteland FFA and a former Indiana FFA state officer, Kelsay praised the youth organization for what it can do for kids. "It's a great learning ground that helps develop the skill set students will need to compete and become successful workers tomorrow," he says.
Kelsay is especially pleased that the Indiana FFA Association leadership now resides in ISDA. That switch occurred last August, when Steve Hickey, the former ag teacher at Shenandoah High School , was hired as director of the Indiana FFA. His office is in ISDA offices in Indianapolis. Recently, ISDA hired an assistant for Hickey. She's Anna Ariens, a former Ft. Wayne farm girl who previously worked with FFA in her role at the Department of Education.
Authority over vo-ag classes and instructions remains with the Indiana Department of Education, Kelsay notes. But matters related to FFA itself are now handled through the ISDA office.
"I believe it's a good situation for everybody, and it's working out well," he says.
The breakfast where he spoke was a special FFA week activity sponsored by the Franklin FFA. It's held in honor of Molly Gibson, a former Franklin FFA member and chapter officer killed in a tragic car accident in the late 1990s before her senior year.
In her memory, a campaign to raise funds to purchase Pooh Bears for kids in the hospital was started. The FFA chapter has held this breakfast in her honor in all but two of the years since her death. Money collected from donations from the breakfast is used to buy Pooh Bears at Johnson County Memorial Hospital. The chaplain from the hospital attended the event to say thank you to all those who attended and helped donate to the fund.
The idea of raising money to buy Pooh Bears and have on hand for kids who had to be in the hospital originated because of Molly's affinity for the stuffed creature. Some people donate Pooh Bears instead of money. They are then passed on to the hospital as well.
"It's good to see that something worthwhile has come out of such a tragedy," Kelsay related.