Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

This past August, Hurricane Florence devastated homes and businesses on the North Carolina coast, and several schools were also affected. That is when the Franklin High School (FHS) Agriculture teachers decided to step in to help. Blake Fox, along with Jenny Collins, both who teach agriculture at FHS, decided to reach out to other agriculture teachers in the state to get aid to those schools on the east coast that were impacted by the hurricane. Fox figured that partnering with other agriculture departments in the state would help students better relate. 

“The FFA (Future Farmers of America) is like an extended family,” said Fox, “and anyone who has ever been in FFA can attest to that.”  He contacted the Eastern Region Agriculture Education Coordinator Allison Jennings, and she put him in touch with Dana Mills, one of the agriculture teachers at West Bladen High School, which was located in one of the hardest hit counties. 

“If the roles were reversed,” said Fox, “I am sure that the agriculture departments in the eastern part of the state would have done the same for us.”

So a contest was set up between the 1st period classes at Franklin High School, with the class that brought in the most items getting a breakfast from the agriculture department. Several classes responded to the challenge with some going above and beyond. The winning class was Sherri Houston’s ESE (Exceptional Student Education) class which brought in more than 1,000 items.  In all, 21 classes and the front office participated in the drive. Also donating supplies were Tractor Supply Company, Seay’s  Farm and Garden, and Bear Carpenter, a student’s father, who donated 50 bales of hay. FHS collected more than 3,500 items, including water, non perishables food items, toiletries, cleaning supplies, dog and cat food, corn, and hay.

The supplies were taken to West Bladen High School in a 26 ft U-Haul truck. Buddy Huckabee, the band director at FHS, had offered the use of the band trailers but they had so many supplies that they would not fit, so they had to find an alternative.  The truck was paid for by FHS and Fox’s dad paid for the gas. They left on Oct. 10  after school, because there was another storm projected to hit on Oct. 11, which was the original day they had planned to leave, so they were scurrying to beat the storm in order to get the supplies there safely. Luckily Hurricane Michael wound up turning north, instead of toward Bladenboro. Fox drove the U-Haul with his wife Beth alongside and Barry Woody, FHS Principal, drove in another vehicle so they could drop off the U-Haul in Bladenboro. The trip was a six-hour drive one way so they spent the night at the North Carolina FFA Camp, which was about 15 minutes from West Bladen High School. They unloaded the truck on Thursday morning Oct. 11th and headed home. 

The drive was a success thanks to the students and parents of FHS, the Macon County Public Schools Administration, the FHS High School Administration, FHS teachers, and the community for stepping up and doing an amazing job. “Without their help and support this would not have been possible,” said Fox.