Club raises $40K for TISD programs
By Abigail Allen
A group of at least 250 community members helped provide around $40,000 for two Tioga ISD programs on Saturday evening.
The Tioga FFA/FCCLA Booster Club's annual dinner and auction provided a chance for Tioga ISD community members and people from the surrounding area to get together after a week of ice and isolation.
"In Tioga, it's going to happen," club president Justin Lewter said.
Ag teachers Jessica Sanders and Brad Bland as well as FCCLA sponsor Christi Crowe were happily greeting community members and watching their students in their element.
"We know these two organizations are growing fast at Tioga, and it's great [to have] the support," Sanders said.
The ice didn't keep the FFA kids home from the Fort Worth Stock Show in the week leading up to the event.
"We had lots of banner winners and good experiences," she said. "Even in the snow we showed."
In just the time he and Sanders have been on staff, the FFA program has grown from around 30 kids to 180.
"This community takes good care of their kids; they really do," he said. "… These kids are unbelievable, and the support they've got is unbelievable."
Both FFA and FCCLA teach students life skills that extend beyond the traditional academic classroom setting.
Crowe was grateful, too, for the support of the Tioga ISD community at the event, which drew in enough people that the organizers needed to add tables and chairs.
"I know that [FCCLA] wouldn't be what it is without the support of the boosters," she said. "We appreciate everything that they do for us."
Seeing so many coworkers show up, too, meant a lot.
"That is huge," Crowe said. "That's what Tioga's about. We're family."
Josh Ballinger, who is the lone finalist for superintendent, attended with his family.
"We've always had a great community," he said. "I'm proud that they're showing up."
There were also several members of the Tioga ISD coaching staff at the dinner.
"It's about Tioga kids," athletic director Chad Rogers said. "… We're all one school."
He added that seeing their students thrive in their other programs is a joy for the coaches.
All of the food, beverages and auction items were either donated by area companies, sponsored fully or provided by the families involved.
The meal was sponsored by Mayo Agency in Tioga, Gressett's Country Carpets, Grayson-Collin Electric Cooperative, with the drinks being provided by Dr Pepper in Sherman and Chicken Express in Gainesville.
Robert Shelton, a local veterinarian, served as pit master to cook up the food, with the meat provided at cost by Clark's Outpost.
The desserts offered for the dinner were provided by the students—one for the dessert table and an identical one for the auction.
A couple of the roughly 60 lots that were on auctioneer Corgie Fisher's docket not only went for a good amount but were also donated back to the FFA program in the course of the auction.
"That's one less welder that the school or somebody else has to buy," Lewter said. "One more kid that can be working on a project, learning how to weld, learning a life skill, and that means a lot to us."
Tioga ISD trustee Brandon Miller also donated back a piece of equipment he won—a cutting torch.
That wasn't the only donation back.
Joel Cassell, who won Heads or Tails, gave the full $300 to the club instead of taking his half.
The monetary proceeds that the group collects help provide support for the students in the two programs.
"Every dollar we take in … either goes back into things that the programs need that the school can't provide, meals when the kids are at shows or their different competitions for both organizations," Lewter said. "Some of the money is paid directly to both organizations. … All the kids that participated get money back, because it's an expensive thing, feeding an animal. It costs just as much to feed one that doesn't make the sale as it does to feed one that does."
One of the parent helpers, Cindy Denham, said the weather made the organizers "a little bit nervous," but that the turnout was great.
"It costs a lot to show, so to be able to help them out in any way you can means a lot," she said.
The evening closed out with Dallin Beedle demonstrating his singing skills, which have carried him to Area.
"On behalf of the Tioga FFA and FCCLA, thank y'all for coming out," he said. "We enjoyed having you. We appreciate y'all helping us fundraise."
The end of his first song—Travis Tritt's "Smoke in a Bar"—was met with a call for an encore.
"Country roads, take me home," he sang. "To the place I belong."
If community members are interested in donating to the club, they can send donations to the Tioga FFA/FCCLA Booster Club at P.O. Box 172, Tioga, TX 76271 or through Venmo at @tiogaffafcclabooster.
"People in this town participate with everything because the kids participate with everything," Lewter said. "It means a lot that when they graduate and they leave, that they're still thinking about helping us out and helping the ones that are coming behind."