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Volunteers help 4-H youth, clubs succeed
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Recent winners of Mississippi’s top 4-H clubs can credit the work of volunteer leaders for inspiring youth to exceptional community service.
“Volunteers have been the backbone of 4-H clubs since the clubs started more than a century ago,” said Harvey Gordon, 4-H youth development specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. He oversees the 7,700 volunteers who lead more than 109,000 youth in 1,120 community-based clubs across Mississippi.
When AT&T recognized Mississippi’s top 4-H clubs at a recent luncheon in Jackson, volunteer leaders were honored along with 4-H members.
“Club leaders help give young people their first taste of community service and lay the foundation for a lifetime of service,” Gordon said.
The three outstanding clubs recognized were from Pearl River, Lee and Oktibbeha counties.
“Something all the best clubs have in common are caring, dedicated leaders who understand youth development and are committed to the process,” Gordon said. “They are positive role models who manage their lives and their clubs to accomplish as much as possible throughout the year.”
Gordon said strong leaders dedicate time to their clubs. The average volunteer gives 220 hours per year to 4-H.
“Leaders are supported by the county and state Extension staff,” he said. “Good volunteers empower the youth to become decision makers and involved in projects that benefit the community.”
Pearl River County…
Under the leadership of Cindy Failla, members of the Forest 4-H Club in Pearl River County demonstrate a love for and dedication to their community. AT&T rewarded the club with a $500 gift from AT&T as the Governor’s Award recipient. The Forest Science, Engineering and Technology, or SET, 4-H Club of Pearl River County also earned the AT&T Science and Technology Award.
Meagan Scott, 4-H youth agent in Pearl River County, said leaders like Failla inspire members to do community outreach as well as educational projects.
“The Forest 4-H Club members met with leaders and businesses to identify key opportunities for service and from these meetings coordinated key projects to help their local community,” Scott said. “Club members volunteered to work at the Crosby Arboretum throughout the year. They make regular visits to the Robert Lott Home in Poplarville, which serves individuals with a variety of disabilities.”
Scott said these members are expanding their 4-H educational projects to better others, better their community and better themselves.
“Cindy makes sure members have many opportunities to get involved by encouraging kids to be leaders in the club. Members select topics and run their own meetings,” Scott said.
Failla described her club members as “a melting pot” of interests.
“Most people think of livestock with 4-H, but we do just about everything. Members are involved in shooting sports, child development, photography, health, expressive arts, computer, gardening, wildlife and other projects,” Failla said.
Volunteer Karen Balint guides the young members of the Plantersville Pals 4-H Club in Lee County like a mother hen leads her chicks. The church-based club has 23 members from kindergarten through sixth grade.
“These young Humane Society volunteers have made a name for themselves by working at the local animal shelter and collecting supplies for the animals,” said Beth Randall, 4-H youth agent in Lee County. “In addition to their work at the shelter, they have held community service days when they visited nursing homes, did yard work for the elderly and washed windows for businesses at a local shopping center.”
Their efforts earned the club a $400 gift from AT&T as the Lieutenant Governor’s Award recipient.
The Longview Disciples 4-H Club in Oktibbeha County earned the Mr. Speaker’s 4-H Banner Club Award and $400 from AT&T. Angela Burgess Stewart leads the members, who are involved in a wide variety of 4-H projects, including livestock, bicycles, and field and stream.
LaTrell Stokes, 4-H youth agent, said Stewart’s club has grown into three groups that meet simultaneously at the Oktibbeha County Extension Office. The club has 33 youth members and 18 adult volunteers.
“Angela is good at delegating and recruiting more leaders to help with the different groups,” Stokes said. “In addition to members’ individual projects, the club is interested community service and environmental stewardship.”
Stokes said club members encourage recycling because of their keen awareness of environmental issues. They collect recyclables and deliver them to the Starkville Recycling Center on a regular basis.
“They are frequent visitors at local nursing homes and volunteer with other community service efforts, including The Salvation Army, Adopt-A-Family, American Heart Association, and The Clover Street Project,” she said.
Other counties recognized…
In addition to the top three clubs, AT&T recognized the following clubs for their outstanding year:
• The Young Riders 4-H Club of Yazoo County received the Commissioner’s Award for Agriculture.
• The Wicks Community 4-H Club in Lowndes County received the First Lady’s Health and Fitness Award.
• Beasley 4-H Club from Clay County was recognized as the Banner Club for the First Congressional District.
• The 4-H Pet Care Club from Humphreys County was recognized as the Banner Club for the Second Congressional District.
• The Leadership and Community Service 4-H Club in Scott County was recognized as the Banner Club for the Third Congressional District.
• The Central Elementary Afterschool 4-H Club in Jackson County was recognized as the Banner Club for the Fourth Congressional District.