Last November, when the Warrenton County R-3 Board of Education, citing budget restrictions, cut the agriculture education program at Blackhawk Middle School and Warrenton High School by 50 percent – eliminating one certified ag education teacher and all classes related to construction, business leadership and communications – Labor supporters and Warrenton neighbors knew they had to do something to save them.
The concerned group made a deal with the District’s School Board: If they could raise $78,000 by April 1 – enough to fund the Warrenton High School and Black Hawk Middle School Ag education programs for the coming year – then the programs would return 100 percent in subsequent years.
The community swung into gear and, with a month to spare, raised more than twice the $78,000 need to save the program, and possible buy new equipment or make improvements.
“For our rural community, careers in agriculture and building trades are vital to the local economy. Classes like welding, construction and business are greatly needed in our future workforce,” said Denise Dent, president of the Warrenton FFA Alumni and Supporters.
Scott Hargis, president of Machinists Automotive Lodge 777 and a Warrenton FFA parent was involved in the fundraising, organizing shoots, while other fundraisers sprung up across the town.
There was the FFA Quilt Raffle, a live Hog and Lamb Raffle, Henry rifle raffle, an Appreciation Breakfast, a Labor Auction featuring items donated from businesses throughout the community. Most recently, Hargis ran a Benefit Buckeye Shoot, bringing in $8,850 from that event alone.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for the support shown to the kids in this school district,” Hargis said.
Labor came out strong, Hargis said, with donations from Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, United Auto Workers Local 2250, IBEW Local 1, IAM Lodge 777, Machinists Lodge 1745, Machinists Lodge 660 and Gas Workers Local 11-6.
The Warren County Labor Legislative Club and the Warren County Democratic Central Committee also donated.
“The support we got was tremendous,” Hargis said.
Rural communities and Labor have a common ethos: When help is needed, they stand together, and get the job done.