Ag Angels Program Thriving in 13th Year Serving Children in Hardee and Highlands Counties
by TERESA SCHIFFER
Christmas is a special time of year for most of us. It’s a time filled with light, laughter, and generosity. When Scott Kirouac learned that for some children, Christmas was just another day, his heart broke. It was while visiting his grandson’s elementary school that he encountered a young girl wearing a dirty dress and oversized shoes that were patched with duct tape. A staff member told him a little about the girl, mentioning that she, like many other children, would most likely have nothing on Christmas morning. Kirouac knew that every child should experience the magic of having gifts to open on Christmas morning, and the fact that so many children wouldn’t have that deeply affected him. Kirouac knew he needed to do something.
This year marks the 13th year of Kirouac’s effort to make Christmas a little brighter for disadvantaged youth in Hardee and Highlands counties through his Ag Angels program. The genesis of the program was a single check that Kirouac wrote to Woodlawn Elementary School for $500. The goal was to provide gifts for children who wouldn’t otherwise receive any, so he arranged for school staff to choose the right children and find out what they would like, and then shop for them. Kirouac stipulated that none of the money was to be given in the form of cash or gift cards, to prevent misappropriation of the funds.
After that initial largesse, Kirouac enlisted some friends from the ag community to chip in and contribute the following year. That year he and his friends were able to contribute about $1,200.
“What hooked me on this,” Kirouac explains, “was when the school wrote me back a letter that just basically brought tears to my eyes, about a couple of the kids they had helped out and the situations they were in. That letter moved me so much, it motivated me to call up some friends and some business associates…. Who better knows than the teacher in the classroom where students are in a bad way?” The result was that Kirouac was able to devise a way to give directly to children in need that people are very comfortable with.
The true magic of Ag Angels is that 100 percent of all donations go to presents for needy children. It is rare in the world of charity and nonprofits to be able to make that claim, but it is the cornerstone of Kirouac’s mission. Kirouac pays the fee for card transactions from people donating on his website. All the administrative fees incurred for running the organization are paid by Kirouac personally, or services are donated by his associates. He has attorneys and accountants volunteering to help him keep Ag Angels running as a legitimate 501(c)(3).
Even Kirouac is blown away by his organization’s phenomenal success over the past 12 years, saying, “If somebody would’ve told me 11 years ago that I was going to found a charity that’s going to raise $80,000 in 50 days to help out less fortunate kids during Christmas time, I would have told them they were crazy. I would have never believed it.”
Kirouac understands that the most useful thing to people in need is money, and that money is most useful when it is put in the hands of someone who will spend it responsibly. That’s why he asks the school staff to determining who will benefit from the Ag Angels gift and shop for presents. He doesn’t want anything to go to waste. There is no carry-over from year to year; each year’s donations are doled out to all the schools in Hardee and Highlands Counties.
Kirouac would love to see others take up the reins in different areas and start their own programs, but he isn’t looking to expand his own program much more because it is primarily a one-man operation He says he would love to help others form their own similar projects. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children this holiday season, please visit agangels.org to make a donation or to contact Kirouac about starting a program in your area.