When a group of dynamic individuals come together to make a difference, there’s no limit on the impact that they can make. This was the case when CTE Global’s employees came together with a single purpose: to make a difference by supporting the communities they serve.
Last fall, a coalition of employees from CTE Global Inc., an enzyme and yeast supplier in the U.S. ethanol industry, met to discuss and reinvigorate their company’s mission. The result of these discussions led to the start of a long-term commitment—establishing a community support program. Since then, four CTE Global employees have volunteered to help with the new program, which aims to support local 4-H chapters through a competitive grant program that awards winners with funds to pursue their dreams in agriculture.
4-H provides kids and teenagers with hands-on projects and opportunities to learn in areas like health, science, agriculture and civic engagement in a positive environment that is supervised and supported by adult mentors: “Kids experience 4‑H in every county and parish in the country through in-school and after-school programs, school and community clubs and 4‑H camps.” Connecting with the 4-H chapters in three ethanol-producing counties made it simple for CTE Global employees to establish the grant competition process in communities where ethanol is an integral component of the local economy.
The grant competition encouraged 4-H participants to submit a 2- to 3-page essay that demonstrates the importance of ethanol. Applicants were required to be between the ages of 12 and 19, and winners were chosen based on their ability to describe what ethanol is, what it means to them, and what it means to their communities.
So far, two applications have been chosen as grant recipients. The first winner was Ethan Swehla, a member of the Jolly Blue Bells 4-H Club of Chickasaw County, Iowa. In his essay, he explains the critical role his local ethanol plant, Homeland Energy Solutions, plays in his community and how their actions benefit him personally.
“Ethanol personally affects me because I am a farmer and my family could possibly take corn to an ethanol plant. I show livestock at the Chickasaw County Achievement Fair and Homeland Energy Solutions sponsors a meal there. Homeland donates to the two school districts that it is located within [my community] … Turkey Valley and New Hampton. I currently go to New Hampton Community Schools. My family and I feed our livestock distillers grain (DDG) from [Homeland]. When I get a car, I will have the choice to purchase gasoline with or without ethanol. In the future, I could possibly have a job at an ethanol plant.”
Swehla plans to use the funds from the competitive grant to raise and breed a calf to show in the Cow & Calf Project at the Chickasaw County Achievement Show.
The second application winner to receive a competitive grant was Deena Degner, a member of the Wonewoc Badgers 4-H Club of Juneau County, Wisc. According to Degner, ethanol’s versatility is one of its most important qualities and contributes to her community in more ways than one.
“For people like my family that live on farms, the corn sales for ethanol can be how we make a profit! In one way or another ethanol affects all of us, and many times it goes unnoticed and is taken for granted. Without ethanol, your little siblings wouldn’t be able to take cough syrup when they have a cold. Without ethanol, your mom couldn’t make the same tasty sugar cookies because she wouldn’t have any vanilla extract. Without ethanol and ethanol plants, so many people in my county would have to find different jobs! Just think about that the next time you are driving, working, baking, or need medicine and make sure to thank a farmer and/or an ethanol plant worker for all their hard work because without their contributions to the ethanol industry, life as we know it would be a whole lot different!”
A third winner will be selected in the coming months, after the decision has had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on 4-H operations and activities.
Stephanie Pannell, a CTE Global employee and member of the community program task force, says that the program came at a crucial time for kids being impacted by the pandemic.
“When presented with the idea to put together a community project for our customers located in the heart of agricultural areas, there was no doubt in our minds that supporting 4-H kids was our calling,” said Pannell. “With the difficult news that many county fairs have been cancelled due to COVID-19, these kids really appreciated the extra support.”
This grant competition has been a source of pride for the CTE Global team who has enjoyed seeing this project come to fruition and looks forward to making a continued impact on new communities.
“When sharing the updates from the various winners, each CTE team member was thrilled. We are already looking forward to setting up this community project again next year,” concluded Pannell.
CTE Global’s grant competition is an innovative approach to making a significant impact in an individual kid’s life. It also demonstrates a model that companies, regardless of their size or sector, can replicate to create positive change for the communities in which they operate. RFA is encouraged by this exciting project and looks forward to seeing how this program makes a long-standing impact for future generations of ethanol advocates.