Ag students raise record-breaking total for rural health project

University Park, Pa. -- Three student organizations in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences raised a record amount through their annual "Penny War" fundraiser, and their contributions will be used to alert agricultural professionals and their families to a potential health problem.

Members of Delta Theta Sigma agricultural interest fraternity, Alpha Zeta co-ed agricultural honorary fraternity and Sigma Alpha agricultural sorority collected more than $1,400 in the event. Each group competed in collecting donations of coins and loose change at their respective houses and through other agricultural student organizations, such as Penn State Collegiate 4-H.

"The 'Penny War' idea grew from the Easter Seals' efforts to raise money to help the needy," said Connie Baggett, associate professor of agricultural and extension education and AgriAbility project director. "The idea was that everyone can help with their pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars; that really resonated with the ag student organizations."

Donations will be used to sponsor a one-day, carotid-artery screening at the AgrAbility and Rural Health Tent at Penn State's 2011 Ag Progress Days, an outdoor agricultural exposition to be held Aug. 16-18 at the Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs.

"We are noticing more clients with cardiovascular problems that are impacting their ability to do their farm tasks," said Linda Fetzer, project coordinator for AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians. "One of the purposes of the carotid artery screening is to detect arterial blockage that could lead to a stroke, which would be very hard on a farm family because of the rehabilitation and potential long-term disabilities associated with stroke."

Sam Woodward, philanthropy chairman of Delta Theta Sigma -- the leading campaign fundraiser for several years -- said service is an important part of the members' fraternity experience. "Being able to sponsor the carotid artery screening is a great way to possibly prevent a farm family member from having a stroke and to avoid the impact that it would have on the farm and community."

"Sigma Alpha is a professional sorority for women interested in agriculture, so we want and need to participate in specific projects that benefit agricultural producers," added Virginia Smith, philanthropy chairwoman for the sorority.

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians is a Penn State Extension program that assists agricultural producers who have a long-term health condition or disability -- such as arthritis, stroke, and knee and back problems -- that impacts their ability to complete farm tasks. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute for Food and Agriculture and is a partnership between Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation.

For more information about AgrAbility or its carotid artery screening, call 814-863-7490 or visit http://AgExtEd.cas.psu.edu/agrab/ online.

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Last Updated May 23, 2011