January 23, 2012

Melissa Covelli holds son Aiden. 

Melissa Covelli holds son Aiden as she walks among the many items donated to the auction held by the Feeders and Friends at the New Raymer fairgrounds. The vent raised money in memory of her late husband Justin. The dollars raised have been put into a scholarship fund at NJC. (Courtesy Photo)

First award to be made this fall

By Barbara Baker

In the quiet of winter, as Mother Earth rests and rejuvenates, awaiting the renewal that will come with spring, the family of Justin Covelli has been at work establishing a scholarship program in his name. You may recall that the eighth annual Feeders and Friends event held this past August in New Raymer, CO was a benefit for the  Justin Covelli Memorial Scholarship Fund  to be managed by Northeastern Junior College to provide scholarships for future agriculture students.  The event raised $37,500.

Just as each spring brings a sense of renewal, from now on, each fall the Covelli family will know that another young person is benefitting from the generosity of many who came together to honor the life of their loved one. 

Covelli, 37, of Weldona, passed away in January 2011 from complications during surgery. He had been battling lung cancer. He left behind his wife of four years, Melissa and two young sons, Aiden and Mason. The son of Barry and Michelle Covelli of Weldona, Justin loved farming with his father, uncle and grandfather as he grew up. He loved playing basketball and watching basketball, especially the Duke Blue Devils. He graduated from Weldon Valley High School in 1991 and from the University of Northern Colorado in 1995 with a degree in business management. In 2007 he married Melissa. In the few years that followed, the coupled had two sons. “He was an outstanding husband and father and enjoyed every minute with his family,” says his mother Michelle. “He was a quiet and humble man and he was a great friend to many. He had a contagious laugh. He was always well-liked and respected by friends and coworkers.”  At the time of his death he was working as the manager and an agronomist for CHS, Inc. at the cooperative’s Wiggins center.

The Justin Covelli Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to one student each fall semester, beginning in August 2012. The recipient will receive $1,000. While the scholarship is directed to incoming freshman students at Northeastern, priority will be given to students from Morgan County. However, if there are no eligible applicants from Morgan County, the scholarship may be awarded to students from Logan or Weld counties. Preference will be given to those majoring in agriculture business. Students receiving this scholarship must have at least a 3.0 or higher grade point average while in high school.

According to Cindy Johnson, executive director of the Northeastern Junior College Foundation, the scholarship will be awarded annually based on these parameters, utilizing the Foundation’s selection process. “This is a wonderful scholarship which honors the memory of a beloved son, father and husband,” Johnson said. “The Foundation will manage it with care and respect according to the wishes of Justin’s family.”  Young agriculture students will benefit from this gift for years to come, she added.

Barry Covelli (right) speaks as Verlyn Mayhan (left) looks on.

Barry Covelli (RIGHT), father of Justin Covelli, took the microphone from event coordinator Verlyn Mayhan (left) and thanked all the auction donors and competitors during 2011 Feeders and Friends Event held last August in New Raymer. A dinner event was held in October at Dewey’s in Stoneham during which time the Covelli family was honored and presented a check from the event. (Courtesy Photo)

Held annually since 2003, the Feeders and Friends event, which is supported by many volunteers and donors, consists of a ranch rodeo, Calcutta, large auction, and dance. It is an event that  brings those from the ranches where the cattle are raised and the  livestock feeding industry, including various vendors such as the pharmaceutical companies,  together with other supporters, to enjoy a day of fellowship, friendly competition and fundraising for a specific cause.

Proceeds from the Feeders and Friends event have been used to memorialize or benefit young people from the New Raymer community.  Memorials have been established in honor of Lacy Miller (2003), Andi Whitlock (2004), Kasey Jo (Walker) Warner (2008), Jesse Samber (2009), and Justin Covelli (2011).  The families of Andi Whitlock, Kasey Jo Walker Werner and Justin Covelli have chosen to direct their memorial funds to establish scholarships at NJC.  Feeders and Friends have also supported community members facing catastrophic life circumstances – Shane Ellis (2005), Britt Trumbull (2006), Jed Michal (2007), and Austin Beckner (2010).  All in all, the group has raised nearly $300,000 in the past eight years.        

Spring is, indeed, a time of renewal, rebirth and regrowth.  Through the generosity of Feeders and Friends, these gifts of spring have been extended to community members – to transform hardship and loss into caring support and hope.  Such is the blessing of life in rural Colorado.