"This is one of the most unique and successful FFA scholarship programs in the state of Minnesota. No other FFA chapter has a program quite like this one," said Chatfield FFA advisor Stacy Fritz.

Fritz explained funds earned through the upcoming March 15 Jared Hammell Memorial Volleyball Tournament are distributed to Chatfield High School FFA members.

"We are able to give scholarships that range from $750 to $1,500 on average to every qualifying member who applies," Fritz continued. "Last year, we gave out over $5,000 worth of scholarships to FFA seniors who are furthering their education after high school."

It does not matter whether the FFA members go to a four-year or community college, or if they pursue majors other than those related to agriculture. Fritz said they have one thing in common, "All of them are hard-working FFA members who chose to build their personal leadership skills by taking advantage of the many opportunities FFA has to offer."

The tournament is a favorite late-winter activity for numerous people who come to Chatfield to bump, set and spike their way to victory.

Fritz related, "One of the fun things about the tournament is that people come from miles around to participate in the day's events. It is fun to see people interact and have fun playing in the tournament - and also the FFA members, parents, alumni and community volunteers who come to assist."

She added that winning teams from the championship and consolation brackets receive gift certificates to JAC's restaurant and bar in Chatfield. Fritz explained that JAC's and the FFA have jointly partnered for the team prizes, meaning JAC's donated a portion of the prize.

FFA members are charged with the task of making arrangements for the tournament. "Students make most of the phone calls to people and businesses for silent auction items and monetary donations," Fritz said. "They learn how to make professional contact with people and how important planning ahead is when putting on an event such as this. Students also participate during the day selling t-shirts, line judging, setting up, cleaning up and anything else that is needed before and the day of the tournament. It takes many volunteers, students and adults to run an event like this. Preplanning began this year in November and picks up quickly as we get closer to the tournament week."

The silent auction, which is supported through donations from area families and businesses, features "a wide variety of baskets to appeal to everyone," including baskets from JAC's Bar and Grille, a barbecued rib basket, two bags of winner's choice corn seed, a custom fishing pole basket, a gift certificate basket featuring items from local businesses, baskets with iPods, a Kindle Fire, movies, kitchen items, baby items, tools and more. One of the more interesting items, Fritz explained, is a money jar with an undisclosed amount of money in it, which is very popular and always a great deal.

"Unique this year is a children's hutch made by Chip Bernard that was generously donated by his family," Fritz added.

Fritz commented that the silent auction has become the biggest fundraiser for the scholarship fund, which generally nets about $9,000 each year through the tournament and auction.

"The last two years we have raised over $5,000 in the silent auction. The year before that was just over $3,000, and that was a record-breaking year," she explained. "We have a reputation of having great silent auction baskets that appeal to a wide variety of people and community members who generously donate to our program by bidding up and purchasing our baskets. Everyone is welcome to come check out the silent auction."

The Jared Hammell Memorial Volleyball Tournament begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 15, and will last until approximately 8 p.m. in the Chatfield High School gymnasium, multipurpose room and cafeteria.

Registration for the tournament is still available - Fritz cited that the fee is $50 per team. Additionally, the FFA will be selling t-shirts and food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including walking tacos, pizza, a ham sandwich plate, snacks and beverages.