WHITE LAKE – A groundbreaking was held earlier this month marking the beginning of a new 72-bed dormitory being built at the North Carolina Future Farmers of America Center in White Lake. Among those touted during the ceremony was a former agricultural teacher from Sampson County who taught at James Kenan High School.
Clinton Mayor Lew Starling, who has a long history with the FFA, donated to the FFA Center in memory of ag educator George Edwards. A room in the girls’ dormitory will be named in his memory.
Edwards, a life-long friend to Starling, was an agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor for over 20 years at James Kenan High School. Edwards, FFA officials said, molded the lives of hundreds of young people throughout his career.
In a letter written to Starling, N.C. State University Chancellor W. Randolph Woodson offered his thanks for the donation. “Your generosity is a wonderful way to honor the memory of Mr. Edwards and the impact he made as an agriculture teacher, while supporting the NC FFA’s ability to provide life-changing opportunities for its members.
“As our university embraces a bold vision for the future, we continue to build on our land-grand traditions and our important mission of creating economic, societal and intellectual prosperity across North Carolina and beyond,” Woodson continued in his letter. “Empowering students as competent, innovative and self-assured leaders for our agriculture sector and our communities is more important than ever. As you know, FFA plays an essential role in that effort by giving young people chances to learn, grow and develop life skills.”
Starling received the prestigious American Farmer Degree, attended two national FFA conventions and served as chapter president. According to officials, NC FFA also plans to recognize Starling’s generosity by placing a plaque at the entrance of the FFA Center in his honor.
In addition, with the help of State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) members, the SECU Foundation provided a $400,000 grant to the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc. for the facility’s construction. The SECU Dormitory will create additional female housing space and will also allow FFA to grow and expand their programming year-round.
Cynthia Jolly, SECU Foundation board chairwoman, spoke during the event held on Aug. 1 and noted, “Future Farmers of America is a wonderful youth organization that helps prepare students for success in a broad range of agricultural careers. As long-time advocates of education, SECU members recognize the tremendous benefits and positive impact FFA’s educational programs and services are making for North Carolina’s young citizens. We are proud to provide funding for the SECU Dormitory to help further support the successful work being accomplished through the Center.”
Roughly 1,300 campers visit the NC FFA Center each summer, and the new accommodations will support 1,800 campers once the SECU Dormitory is complete. The extra housing and enhanced level of services will help reduce crowding, improve the living environment, and ultimately increase the number of well-trained student leaders in North Carolina’s school systems and communities. There are more than 20,000 NC FFA members in 263 chapters, and the organization has roughly 319 FFA programs in middle schools and high schools statewide.
“We are excited to receive this gift from the SECU Foundation,” said Gerald Barlowe, state Agricultural Education Leader at the NC FFA Association. “It’s an important gift – an investment in the future of our organization and its members, allowing us to expand our capacity for female FFA members to attend our camps and leadership training. The enclosed, heated and air- conditioned SECU Dormitory will also give us the opportunity to utilize camp services beyond the summer for additional activities throughout the year. Thank you for this gift that will truly impact the lives of our current and future members.”
The BASF Foundation also contributed $200,000 towards construction and the NC FFA has also received additional funding through the support of Sampson County Farm Bureau. Alamance County Farm Bureau and Farm Credit of NC have also supported the construction efforts.