Ag Angels’ Success Makes Way for Even More Opportunities
For the last 15 years, Scott Kirouac and the Ag Angels program he founded have been making a difference in the lives of children who need it the most throughout Central Florida.
The Ag Angels program was established to help schools provide Christmas gifts for children who would otherwise have little, if anything, to look forward to during the holiday break. Donations are gathered and distributed by check to schools. School staff members compile a list of students to benefit, then do the shopping and submit receipts to Ag Angels, along with a letter of thanks.
A major reason the Ag Angels program is so appealing to donors is because every penny that is donated goes out to help kids in need. Kirouac and his associates cover all of the overhead expenses, including everything right down to the service charge for credit card donations. No balance is carried over from year to year, all funds collected are used for the intended purpose each year.
The response to Kirouac’s charity has been overwhelmingly positive – so much so that he was able to initiate a new scholarship program this year. Graduating seniors from high schools in Highlands and Hardee Counties are eligible to apply for a Trade School Scholarship intended to propel teens who were not on a track to college into the workforce with a set of vocational skills in high demand.
“This past scholarship season, we awarded four Trade School Scholarships, valued up to $7,500 each,” Kirouac says. Out of about three dozen applicants, one winner was chosen from each of three schools in Highlands County and one in Hardee County.
“We wanted to give an opportunity to students, to young adults, who are just not bookworms, not four-year university people, they maybe didn’t really excel at school a lot, but they’ve got a lot of potential when it comes to learning a trade,” Kirouac says of the criteria for the scholarship, which includes a minimum GPA of 2.0.
Saving Christmas and creating bright futures isn’t the end of the good work Ag Angels has facilitated either. Thanks to the continued outpouring of generosity and support from donors, children have been supplied with back-to-school items so they can start the school year with everything they need in the classroom. Ag Angels has also been there to provide assistance to families struck by tragedies like house fires and hurricanes.
Kirouac was inspired to establish the Ag Angels 501(c)3 organization after a visit to his grandson’s elementary school 15 years ago. That day, a staff member at the school described to Kirouac how there were many children living in poverty throughout Central Florida who would have nothing to celebrate on Christmas morning, and no gifts to open at home.
He couldn’t go back to “business as usual” with the thought of how unfair the whole situation was. He envisioned the scene as students returned to school after the holiday, some showing off spiffy new clothes, others boasting about the awesome toys they’d received – while some children could only listen to the tales, knowing they had no fabulous gifts to brag about, or fantastic holidays to describe.
Kirouac was compelled to take action. He took a check to the school with instructions that the money was to be used to purchase gifts for students identified by teachers as in need – no gift cards, and no cash was to be given out.
When Kirouac received that first sincere, profoundly moving “thank you” letter from the school, he knew he had to share that joy of giving. He began calling his friends and associates to invite their participation, and enlisted the aid of the agricultural boards he served with in the area.
The responses he received were overwhelmingly enthusiastic. To date, more than $680,000 has been raised, with 100 percent of that money going directly to help kids in need throughout Highlands and Hardee Counties. Every year, Ag Angels delivers on the mission to spread the joy of Christmas to those who are struggling, and every year the outpouring of gratitude from teachers, students, and families makes it all worthwhile.
If you’d like to learn more or become a part of the Ag Angels family, you can do so at www.AgAngels.org.