When Ken Morgan asked me to serve on the Board for the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation (VFEF), I accepted without hesitation. Ken wasn’t necessarily looking for a quick yes, and he used the opportunity to tell me about how personally rewarding it had been for him to be on the Board and to support the VFEF. He also took the opportunity to explain what the mission of VFEF is and detailed some of the programs the Foundation supports. One area, as he explained, was the awarding of scholarships to forestry students at Virginia Tech and the impact that the scholarships can make for students. In that sense, Ken was preaching to the choir. Scholarships at Virginia Tech had given me the opportunity that I needed to pursue my career in forestry, and were a real life changer for me.
Having grown up in Emporia in rural southeast Virginia, I was exposed to forestry early on. Forestry was everywhere -- in industry, logging, or just riding through the countryside. Southeast VA was noted for the three P’s – Pine trees, Pork, and Peanuts. Along with the forestry business, the forest resources attracted something else to our community and that was, as you can imagine…foresters. I got to personally know many of them and looked up to them, some were active leaders in our church and others I met as they stopped in for a friendly visit at my Dad’s place of business. It was in those formative years that I realized that becoming a forester was my dream job.
Fast forward 40 years (which is more years than I like to admit), and forestry remains my dream job. It’s been a satisfying and fulfilling career that, and as I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing if I did it all over again. It is important that I not lose sight of what gave me a jump start to pursue my dreams – education and the additional financial support to obtain that education through scholarships. In addition, the support from family, friends, and some great folks that I worked with along the way.
Now that I have served a year on the Board, I’ve seen first-hand the VFEF’s involvement and the positive results of their efforts. I had no idea the magnitude of its support level nor the number of youths that it reaches out to each year. Remarkably it’s done this since the 1950’s. Here are some of the VFEF’s efforts in just 2016 alone:
I’ve also seen that funding for these programs comes from many generous donors, as well as from dividends in well-chosen mutual fund investments. But it takes continuous financial support for the VFEF to maintain this high level of participation and success. Please consider making a tax-free donation to support two very worthy causes for generations to come - our youth and forestry education in Virginia! After all, your gift could very well be a life changer! For more information about this valuable Foundation, or to make a contribution, please visit www.vfef.net.
James "Jimmy" Jones,