This Town Needs A Barn Raising

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Forget the ground-breaking, we’re gonna need a good old-fashioned barn raising when construction starts on the high school’s new agriculture building.

Invite everyone, because the community won big-time, thanks to the dedication of teachers, students, administrators and school board members.

The board and administration cut corners, did without and watched the bottom line to come up the $1.2 million needed for an ag building that can handle the livestock and other animals the program requires. Most of the money comes from the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), with about $500,000 in bond money scrimped from other projects.

The decision this week represents welcome support for agriculture teacher Wendell Stevens’ long, dedicated, sometimes Quixotic effort to keep one of the high school’s most effective and innovative programs alive.

The ag program has won numerous awards and attracted a devoted following of 120 students, many of them inspired and challenged by the chance to prepare for a career working with animals — as vets, ranchers, farmers and other professions.

We’re delighted that the school board has resolved to build on this town’s deep roots as a ranching community — while also recognizing that such programs inspire students and often contribute far more to a school than an extra hour of drilling on the three R’s.

Unfortunately, schools have been caught between the effort to upgrade academic standards and the terrible constriction of school budgets. The combination has squeezed many electives out of the schedule, with grim results on both student motivation and academic achievement. We feared that the agriculture program would succumb to the same trend, despite its many great successes.

Fortunately, the board and the administration had the vision and the smarts to do the right thing when the agriculture program was faced with extinction — thanks in substantial measure to far-sighted voters who cared enough about this community to approve the bonds in the first place.

Used to be, when someone in this town needed a barn built — his neighbors would come on over, and bring their tools. Well, maybe that spirit’s not dead after all — we’ve still got a barn raising or two in us. Just ask the school board.

Not in this community

You have something to do tonight.

Cancel any other plans: This is very, very important.

You need to help your neighbors — and your country.

You need to show up at the Presbyterian Church on East Main Street, with an open heart and your checkbook for the kickoff of a community crusade against hunger.

Food banks serving Rim Country have all but run out of food, as the recession drags on and as unemployment spreads, desperation among families driven onto the reef by these economic gales.

All of the food banks report the same dispiriting trend, as people who have never sought food assistance line up waiting for the doors to open. Too often, the shelves empty before the line diminishes.

We have all watched this bewildering recession spread and deepen. And we have all railed at the maddening blame-placing, renewed bonuses and blunted response.

But when your neighbor’s house is burning and you hear their children crying in the corner bedroom, you don’t need to figure out how the fire started or whether the insurance will kick in.

You just grab a hose, break out the window and crawl into the smoke toward the sound of those children.

Fortunately, community leaders have joined together to mount a food drive in this community. This is not a place where children go to bed hungry while we have food in our cupboard. No sir. Not here.

As Mayor Kenny Evans put it in his appeal for members of this beloved community to show up tonight down on Main Street: “Hungry children in our own community — that is a reality we must not allow. Collectively, I continue to be amazed by the tender hearts and giving natures of all those who have chosen to call Rim Country home.

“Together we have solved incredible challenges. We have overcome unbelievable odds.

“Together, we can make a difference; we can overcome hunger at home.”

Church and community leaders have met repeatedly during the past month to launch a coordinated food drive, which starts tonight.

So we’ll see you there.

We’ve got work to do.

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