By Kendall Herren
LOUISVILLE – For FFA members, the official blue jacket means belonging and being united with more than 600,000 FFA members from across the country. Lee Anne Shiller, the director of merchandise, customer and fulfillment services for the National FFA Organization, understands just how important the jacket is for members.
A former FFA member from Iowa and with a background in textiles, Shiller wants to give back to the organization. She does this by spearheading the Give the Gift of Blue program, which helps members who can’t afford a jacket buy one.
“Students can go online and apply anonymously for the jacket, and they write us an essay about why it is important for them to have a jacket made for them,” Shiller said. “Their advisor then approves and is our vetting point, making sure they really are a student in need.”
Once the jacket is approved, it is made and shipped to that FFA member.
Just recently, the Give the Gift of Blue program received an endowment of half a million dollars, which means the program will be funded forever. Thanks to a donor who had to borrow an FFA jacket when he was a member, the endowment was made possible.
“We’ll be giving 250 jackets out from this endowment every year,” Shiller said. “We’ve given out 450 just this year, and we probably have another 150 more to give out.”
Because of this endowment, and hundreds of other donations over the years, all FFA members across the nation will be able to have their own FFA jacket.