Have you ever had the feeling of a place that just feels right, like a second home? I had the exact feeling every time I stayed at the Indiana FFA Fellowship Center at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center. While staying at the Fellowship Center for chapter retreats, trainings and events the feeling of faith and hope filled my time. Laughter, growth and teamwork made each time special and unique.
|The 2016-2017 Indiana FFA State Officer Team is pictured here, in front of the Indiana FFA Fellowship Center.|
Throughout my stays, I discovered that the Fellowship Center was built “to honor all those who have touched the lives and hearts of the FFA”. Later, I realized that there was a much greater story to the Fellowship Center, the one of Valerie Victoria James, after reading The Journey is more than the Destination, written by her parents – Cathy and Frank James.
While reading, I learned that Valerie was a smiling, shining and passionate Christian girl, active Tri-County FFA member and recently elected District 1 President. On June 20, 1997, a tragic car accident took Valerie’s life. The grief of losing such a beautiful daughter and sister inspired her family to overcome their grief by giving back to the place she loved – the Indiana FFA Leadership Center. Valerie would come home from weekends spent at the Center during FFA Conferences – enthusiastic and excited because of the experiences she gained there. Her family worked hard and remained dedicated to building the Fellowship Center – a symbol of Valerie’s legacy and to honor all who have impacted Indiana FFA.
|The Fellowship Center looks just as majestic covered in snow! It is beautiful in every season and can be rented out by any group who would like to enjoy it!|
I wish I could have known Valerie, but after reading the book and being impacted by the beautiful Fellowship Center, I have felt the legacy that she has left on so many. That legacy has touched FFA members, Church groups, families, businesses and many others who have experienced it as “such a loved place for reflection, worship and fellowship”.
The impact that Valerie’s life has continued to make – over 19 years after her death – is breath taking. Valerie’s legacy is the true example of ‘living to serve’ and something we should all model after.
I encourage you to read The Journey is more than the Destination (available on Amazon) and book a stay at the Indiana FFA Fellowship Center (leadershipcenter.inffa.org) for the opportunity to experience Valerie’s legacy, impact and character that is still alive today.
Also – for those of you who know Valerie’s story – I am hoping to drive by the iconic ‘smiley face barn’ in northwestern Indiana during FFA Week! :)
Forever Impacted – and keep smiling,
2016-2017 Indiana FFA State Southern Region Vice-President