BRODHEAD — What would typically be the time of year when the Brodhead FFA would be planning and prepping for their annual end of year banquet including a meaningful sendoff for the seniors — has instead become very different.
Almost everything has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with governor’s orders that have now shuttered businesses until the end of May and schools for the rest of the school year.
With time on her hands, Brodhead High School FFA President and senior Skylar Stanley noticed on social media that farm families were dumping milk — something that’s happening all over the state — due to lack of demand after the closure of restaurants, schools, hotels and food-service businesses.
The sad reality for dairy farmers immediately gave her an idea. And after getting the OK from her FFA advisor and superintendent, Stanley posted on social media, hoping to start a challenge. She wanted to purchase 80 gallons of milk and 80 pounds of cheese to hand out to families coming to utilize the food program for the week.
But the initial idea of creating a challenge — hoping one would lead to another — instead turned into about a dozen messages from businesses asking if they could donate. She now has enough donors to last until June.
The Piggly Wiggly in Brodhead is supplying the milk for Stanley and it’s about $160 for 80 gallons of milk and about the same amount for 80 pounds of cheese.
That means that every family in Brodhead — on average about 80 — that come to receive food from the curbside lunch program also take with them a gallon of milk and a pound of cheese. Stanley hopes to send a message to remind them to support the dairy industry during this time of crisis.
I was very overwhelmed. People are calling me the most popular girl in Brodhead right now. Everyone has just been so overwhelming with support.Skylar Stanley, Brodhead senior
From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the school, Stanley can be found passing out the dairy items while donning a shirt from that week’s donor. She’s practicing safety guidelines by wearing a mask and handing items through vehicle windows, she said.
“I just ask them to support the dairy industry and let them know who donated,” she said.
After more and more people responded, Stanley said she knew she had to get herself organized. She said her home is now filled with spreadsheets, calendars and to-do lists she revises regularly.
“I was very overwhelmed,” Stanley said, noting that her mom has been helping her. “People are calling me the most popular girl in Brodhead right now. Everyone has just been so overwhelming with support.”
She said working with the Piggly Wiggly in Brodhead has been a positive experience too, and as long as she orders in advance, they get her the 80 gallons of milk needed for her mission.
“This is a small town and I love the community support,” Stanley said.
When she isn’t organizing the plans or handing out dairy items, Stanley is providing childcare for the children of first responders. She hopes one day to become an early childhood teacher and will attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
When the announcement came that school would remain closed for the duration of her senior year, she said she took the news in stride.
“It’s hard, but it’s going to make us that much stronger,” Stanley said. “And it will make the classes below us more thankful.” She said she’ll miss her teachers most.
Brodhead FFA Advisor and ag teacher Lauren Metcalf is still holding officer meetings for the FFA group via videoconference.
“I told them ‘if something is on your heart — now is the time to do it,’” Metcalf said. She wasn’t surprised when she heard from Stanley with her plan, noting that she has strong leadership skills and all of the “tools in her toolbox” to make something like this happen.
“I’m impressed with her communication skills,” she said. “For a really crummy end of a school year — she’s showing off her potential.”
The post on social media has reached thousands of people and Metcalf is also proud of the exposure Stanley is giving to the dairy industry and how much support she’s received.
“Part of me was surprised and part of me wasn’t,” Metcalf said at the initial outpouring of donors. “We live in a generous town that would get behind that.”
The FFA has had to cancel several events since the closures, but students are doing their best to continue their focus on agriculture, Metcalf said.
“It’s kind of been a relief that Skylar can add some good vibes to our spring,” Metcalf said.