Our biggest disappointment during 2020 was not being able to see all our loyal customers and provide them with delicious fresh whipped cream puffs and cheese curds. As the summer went on and events were scheduled, we were fortunate to be in a financial position that we could still provide our support to the agriculture education program, FFA members, and the community groups and causes the FFA Alumni members usually support.

Still able to give back

Even with COVID-19, we have been able to meet on a regular basis via ZOOM, handle major business decisions, deal with the financial impact of no fundraisers, make decisions on major community outreach and support for those affected by COVID-19 and students not able to sell at fairs, and continue operations as usual.

We were able to involve all members by meeting virtually, used the newsletter and our email group to keep people informed, and operated “business as usual” for our meetings. The biggest difference was that almost all meetings have been virtual since March. But having our business practices well established, we have been able to function normally.

We were able to make the following donations:

$3,200 to the Stoughton Food Pantry: Due to COVID-19, the pantry was not able to take in any physical food donations for an extended amount of time and needed to purchase all food. Our financial support was very helpful in enabling them to do that. Some of the funds were paid to a local meat market who supplied meat to the food pantry for us.

$1,000 to the Personal Essentials Pantry: This group helps to fill in the gaps that some of the food pantry distributions don’t cover. Items such as household items (i.e. cleaners, soaps) and personal items (i.e. diapers, soap) are needed by their program participants.

$500 to the Stoughton Senior Center: This support was used to help offset the cost of meals distributed to seniors in our area. Because the center itself was closed, they had additional costs for packaging and delivering meals to seniors depending on this service.

We have been very fortunate to have loyal customers over the years who have put us in a good financial position so that we could give back. Our efforts helped fill empty cupboards, refrigerators and freezers, and supplies that many in our community needed due to loss of jobs, loss of access to the senior center, and inability to other sources of help.

We were able to do this along with maintaining our other support of scholarships, meat animal projects, and supporting our local agriculture education and FFA program.

Still able to support fair projects despite no fairs

We developed a new form for livestock exhibitors to complete if they wanted to get support. It was based off of our Loan and Grant application forms and gave them an opportunity to share what they learned, their expenses, and other information. This was distributed to livestock exhibitors with the help of our advisor, parents, fair superintendents and Alumni members.

We also learned about the Dane and Columbia County Livestock Expo Sale. On July 18th, at the Iowa County Fairgrounds in Mineral Point the Dane and Columbia County Youth Livestock Expo took place. This Show was open to any 4-H or FFA member that would normally exhibit Beef, Sheep or Swine at the Dane County, Columbia County, Stoughton Jr, Fair and Lodi Agricultural Fair. It has been expanded since the creation of this event to more exhibitors to ensure that members will have at least one show to take part in this summer.

We were able to spend $3,400 on livestock exhibitors. We gave $2,400 to ten student exhibitors through the application projects to help offset their expenses.

We also gave $1,000 to support the Dane and Columbia County Livestock Expo Sale. This donation helped offset the expenses of putting on the event as well as other ways the organizers needed.

Golden Again at State Convention

The Stoughton FFA Alumni and Supporters Chapter had a lot to celebrate at the 2021 Wisconsin FFA Alumni Convention in Green Bay. While close to 50 participated virtually, the convention had over 110 attending in-person. Stoughton was awarded Gold Rating for Outstanding Chapter Award, Gold Rating & State Winner for Newsletter Award, and Melanie Huchthausen was name Gold Rating- State Winner in Outstanding Achievement Award. Melanie’s application and the Outstanding Chapter will advance to national competition.

Attending in-person were Nick Lowe and Missy Lewandowski. Darlene Arneson participated virtually in the convention as well as the Past Wisconsin FFA Alumni President’s Virtual Meeting.

Melanie Huchthausen- Outstanding Achievement Winner

Melanie has been very involved the past years in many phases of the Stoughton FFA Alumni business operations. Joining because her children were in FFA, Melanie quickly became involved in attending our regular membership meetings. As our chapter wanted to have parents of current members involved, Melanie was willing to come onto the council. She attends meetings, offers to assist in any ways that are needed, encourages members to attend meetings and invited FFA members to attend our meetings and Christmas Party so they could learn about the FFA Alumni. She has worked in the FFA Alumni Food stand and has been instrumental in recruiting FFA members to assist in the food stand.

Melanie encourages the other parents to become involved in the Stoughton FFA Chapter. She sees the value of having parents aware of what the FFA Alumni is, what our Alumni does to support the students, exhibitors and FFA members, and shares that information via her own children and to the other FFA members. She has attended FFA Alumni and Supporters Annual Convention and attended workshops, tours and the business meetings at the convention. Being able to network with other FFA Alumni members helped Melanie better understand the larger organization and she brought back her enthusiasm and shares it with other FFA Alumni, parents and FFA members.

Melanie has participated in community service projects with both the FFA Alumni and the local school chapter. She has coordinated with the FFA advisor to complete service projects and chaperoned service projects as needed. She also has been a 4-H volunteer leader since 2013, audits the club’s year-end financials, hosts fun events for their club at their home, and coordinates 4-H service projects. Meanwhile, she also works as the Clerk in the Town of Dunkirk and handles all the meetings, budgeting, payroll, election administration, and other clerical duties! She is a valuable part of the community and despite a very busy person, she makes time for many volunteer organizations that her family is involved in.

Stoughton has had numerous turnovers in instructors since our long-time instructor retired. The burden of keeping the FFA members/officers motivated, continuity of the chapter’s activities, helping the new instructor(s) find their way around the community has fallen on dedicated parents like Melanie. She has attended FFA officer meetings and regular meetings to assist the FFA Advisor. She has coordinated with the Advisor in distributing fundraising merchandise and fruit. Giving background on fairs, livestock shows, banquet preparations and other activities has been so helpful to the instructors. Having parent support has been critical for the new instructors and in bridging the communications between the FFA and FFA Alumni. It also has given the students and FFA members a great experience during advisor turnover.

Melanie has assisted another Alumni member in preparing for career development events- helping the FFA members prepare and practice. Her background and willingness to learn about the events, rules and competition details was very helpful to the advisors. She also took time off from work and helped chaperoned the officer team to the 2019 FFA Convention. This was a great experience for the students to have her along and they all benefited from the various sessions, speakers, career show and other parts of the convention. This bonding time was very evident in their presentation during our Christmas Party in which they showed pictures and talked about the trip.

Looking ahead to 2021

Members elected the 2021 Council at the December annual meeting. They include President- Nick Lowe; Vice President- Mark Nordlie; Secretary- Darlene Arneson; Co-Treasurer- John Elvekrog and Jack Ellickson; At-large- Craig Furseth, Jerry Wendt, Val Barton, Don Quam, Melanie Huchthausen and Barb Lowe; and Advisor- Mollie Jo Biermeier.

The group is looking ahead to having the food stand open at their four usual events but is waiting on each event to finalize details. They also continue to meet virtually and are following Dane County COVID-19 rules and guidelines. The focus is supporting the agriculture education program and FFA Chapter as classes and their needs have changed due to virtual education and other needs. The group is also looking ahead to helping with a arboretum renovation.

To learn more, follow the Stoughton FFA Alumni on Facebook. Anyone is welcome to join the organization and can contact Chapter Secretary Darlene Arneson at 608-873-7209.

-Stoughton FFA Alumni