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Crochet weaves magic for lifelong 4-H leader
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
VICKSBURG – Crocheting may be a dying art to some people but not to Gloria Smith.
Smith is a 4-H volunteer leader in Warren County and has spent 50 years providing youth the direction they need to be successful in life. She began her lifelong journey by learning a skill that put her on a path to work with youth.
When Smith was a young woman, she attended a meeting of homemakers who had invited the Warren County home demonstration agent to teach them how to crochet. Her sister planned to go and persuaded Smith to go with her.
“My sister asked me if I wanted to go with her to watch the home demonstration agent show several ladies how to crochet, and I thought it would be fun,” Smith said. “I became fascinated, and before I knew it, I was teaching others this skill.”
Crochet is the French word for hook. Artisans who crochet use a specialized hook to pull loops of yarn or thread through other loops to create patterned fabric. With her nimble fingers, Smith easily mastered the craft.
There was more Smith was about to learn. People were impressed with her crocheting skills and they asked her to come to a club meeting for a crochet demonstration. She became a sought-after speaker for many educational events in school and at church.
“I simply wanted to share what I knew with other people and get them excited about learning something new,” Smith said. “I enjoyed the interaction and kept saying yes when people asked me to show them how to crochet.”
Her confidence, as well as her desire to have a major influence on youth in her community, grew. It was no surprise to anyone when Smith, who was already a leader in her Mississippi Volunteer Homemakers Club, chose to become a volunteer leader for a 4-H club.
“Gloria Smith has a quiet, thoughtful and soft-spoken demeanor, but her inner strength and character speak loudly,” said Warren County 4-H youth agent Marcus Davis. “She may appear to be reserved, but when she chooses to say something, people would be wise to listen.”
Smith has used these leadership qualities to teach 4-H youth the importance of community service and the need to embrace the challenges that life inevitably presents. She lives this creed through actions, not just words, said 4-H youth development specialist Harvey Gordon of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
“The 4-H members that Mrs. Smith mentors respond to the example she sets as their leader because they see her conviction and energy in everything she does,” Gordon said. “She is a role model not only for her club but also for future 4-H volunteer leaders. She is a great recruiter for our 4-H volunteer leader program, and I would not hesitate to ask for her help in identifying these future leaders.”
Smith said she believes 4-H youth have the skill and the vision to solve many major issues facing Mississippi today, such as the growing problem of hunger in many communities. Smith enlisted her 4-H club and other community volunteers to prepare chicken dinners to feed people healthy, delicious meals.
“Having food is such a basic part of living well,” Smith said. “Many people go hungry because they don’t have the resources. As a community, we must do all we can to solve this problem.”
Perhaps by empowering 4-H youth in Warren County, Smith will be the catalyst for future leadership, just as crochet was the catalyst for her to lead.