A $10,000 donation made to the Mariposa County High School FFA program was asked to be returned by the contributor himself — former supervisor Merlin Jones, who represented North County.
One of the driving factors behind his request, Jones described, was due to the FFA booster dinner being canceled in 2020 in light of the ongoing pandemic. He said the $10,000 donation was intended to cover the dinner booster expenses.
“I have sponsored … the dinner for the last five years or something like that and they didn’t have the meal last year and so I just asked for the money back,” Jones said, further saying he’s now going to wait and see, “what happens (and) when they need some more money.”
Jeff Aranguena, the superintendent of the Mariposa County Unified School District, said he has tried to get in contact with Jones, but is yet to actually speak with him about the request. plained, saying, “Merlin has been an amazing contributor to the FFA for many years.”
At this time it is not clear when the money was returned.
“Since they didn’t have it (the dinner) I felt like … they said it’s sitting there and they said it wasn’t being used,” Jones said.
The superintendent went on to say the program is actually planning to have a FFA booster dinner this year, but as a drive-up event. Jones said he has not been informed yet of the drive-up dinner, but will wait for someone to reach out to him to see what they need.
“I will always continue to help the kids in any way and donate to their causes anytime …,” Jones said. “I have no children so I have helped a lot of kids in my life and … I plan on doing that.”
According to Aranguena, the FFA boosters were notified on Jan. 6 of Jones’ request — a day after the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors did not receive a second for a motion to appoint Jones to the Mariposa County Planning Commission for District Two.
This raises the additional question of if the board’s decision had any impact on Jones’ request for the return.
“Well I was disappointed in a county supervisor,” Jones responded, not identifying the supervisor who he was referring to, but continued to say, “especially because … he wanted young people to be on it (the planning commission).”
“He’s getting too old to be on it (the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors). If I’m too old to be on it, maybe I’m too old to donate.”
When asked to comment on the matter due to his involvement as one of the founding members of the FFA boosters, and his comment at the Jan. 5 board of supervisor meeting regarding wanting more efforts to recruit younger staff on the different commission boards (read the story here: bit.ly/2MSHFau), Supervisor Wayne Forsythe, who represents District Four, said, “As far as former supervisors, I would prefer not to make any comment (on) what they may or may not have done, or requested.”
“I just want to move forward,” the new supervisor continued, saying he’s concentrating on county needs after the Mono winds.
“When it comes to supporting the kids, I will always support the kids,” Jones added.
“I probably won’t support a supervisor if I’m getting too old. And I think I was disappointed especially when he gave me his word that he would support me ….”
When asked if the request will affect the acceptance of future donations made by the former supervisor, Aranguena said, “I look forward to Jones’ continual involvement … if he chooses to do so,” as the superintendent stressed the importance of always accepting support for the students.
“… We will never shut the doors on any community members or businesses who continue to support” the students and school, Aranguena said.
For more information about the FFA program and how the students and boosters are navigating through this unprecedented time, read the Dec. 31, 2020 update here: bit.ly/3jwYXWN.