Community support for students following barn fire

March 7, 2011 5:07:01 PM PST
Flames killed more than a dozen pigs last month that were being raised to compete in the Montgomery County Fair. Now the students who were raising the animals are getting help with rebuilding the barn. So far the FFA programs at College Park and the Woodlands high schools have gotten enough in the way of donations to make sure the programs will continue next year.

Just a few feet from the charred rubble of the south county FFA barn in Montgomery County, construction crews are beginning work on a new barn to replace the one that burned in a February 1 fire, killing the 17 show pigs inside.

Matt Turner with the College Park High School FFA explained, "The wind had knocked down the heat lamp that caught the bedding on fire."

FFA groups from the Woodlands and College Park high schools shared the pig barn. About 30 kids in all worked out of it.

The teachers who helped these students were helping out at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Monday, where the group saw up close what a blow the fire was to the kids who'd worked so hard.

"They had kind of gotten attached and were working hard, and so to lose everything all of a sudden was pretty devastating to them," explained Kim Kmiecik with The Woodlands High School FFA.

It was The Woodlands Township board member Nelda Blair who sent out an email blast when she heard about the fire. The response was tremendous -- including a donated pre-fabricated building from Petroleum Wholesale LP.

"Because those kids had worked so hard, the community's just come together and donated money and buildings and professional services," Blair said.

And $16,500 so far has been raised to go towards rebuilding, and for buying pigs and feed for next year's program.

"We can't thank them enough for all their support, because without them there's no way we could afford to rebuild," Turner said.

The agriculture teachers say the kids won't be able to show at the Montgomery County Fair this year, but because of all the support from the community the FFA programs have a future next year and beyond.

Kmiecik said, "It's touching to know that there's people you might not even know that come out and help you and support you like that."

Some of the money the kids typically raise at auction goes toward college scholarships, too. There are two seniors who lost pigs, but the College Park ag teacher says there will be some money to help both of them out.

    Donations can be made at any Woodforest bank:

    Woodforest Bank
    "The Woodlands FFA/College Park FFA Barn Fund"

You can read more on this story in the Woodlands Villager, one of our Houston Community Newspaper partners.