Cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew has been no picnic, but FFA students at North Lenoir High School have used volunteer projects to make flood-ravaged public spaces in Lenoir County much happier places and have earned statewide attention in the process.
“Everybody saw how Hurricane Matthew affected the community,” North Lenoir senior Neena Cruz-Black said. “We know there are kids at school that lost their homes. This is just a way of us wanting to give back to the community. It was really a nice opportunity to give back.”
Cruz-Black and a half-dozen of her schoolmates – all members of the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter – had just finished unloading six wooden picnic tables at Neuseway Nature Center on Tuesday. Some 60 students, working since January under the supervision of FFA adviser and agriculture mechanics instructor David Mooring, built the tables and, in a related project, repaired the boardwalk at Harriet’s Chapel Church on the grounds of the Battle of Kinston historic site. Also in the works are four benches for the Nature Center.
While the students brought the enthusiasm and elbow grease, the materials were paid for through grants offered by Bayer Crop Science as part of its “Respond and Rebuild” program. Of the $10,000 Bayer made available to FFA chapters statewide, North Lenoir received $1,500 for its projects.
“Bayer wanted folks in the community to be assisted. Both of our grants were community assistance grants,” Mooring said. “I submitted two $500 grants, hoping to get one of those. The North Carolina FFA Foundation gave us both grants and they liked the Nature Center project so well they made it a thousand bucks.”
While the projects were certainly a lesson in compassion, they also taught practical skills, the students said. “It was actually more complicated than you might think, putting the tables together, because there’s a lot of math going behind it,” Cruz-Black said.
“I had done a little carpentry before but not like this,” Logan Clark, a sophomore and chapter vice-president, said. “Mr. Mooring really emphasized what it takes to build these. A few degrees off on these tables would compromise the strength of them totally. He taught us about the structure, almost the mechanics of each table.”
Jesus Gallardo, a senior, may have glimpsed his future in his Ag Mechanics II class and with this project. “Actually, I want to work in construction and this helps me develop so many skills. I’m just really glad I’m here with Mr. Mooring and the guys like this. I really enjoy it.”