“This group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other. Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”
Ann Marie Shelton and Syntha Alvarez
On day four of National Volunteer Week, Jackson County 4-H Agent Angel Granger shares the story of Ann Marie Shelton, a volunteer who leads the Jackson County 4-H ASK Club – Always Support Kids. In her own words, Ann Marie shares what inspired her to start this club and the impact it has had:
“The volunteer part is deep rooted, goes back to me as a very small child. I enjoyed helping others, it made me feel good! That stuck with me through the years. There is so much going on in the world that is tough to hear. I firmly believe that we have the power to change much of this. Volunteering time, expertise, and a dash of passion will do much to make this world a better place. When volunteering, you are given the opportunity to lead by example, by not waiting around for good or needed things to happen you are showing that everyone has the capacity within themselves to be a part of the change. This may require you to step out of your comfort zone and start something new or join a group of volunteers already working on a cause of interest to you. One benefit of volunteering is you get to choose areas to volunteer that are of interest to you, whether it be something you are passionate about or something you want to learn about.
ASK Volunteer Anne Marie Shelton (pictured 3rd L-R) with her club members.
After having my four children, two of which are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and reconnecting with a friend from High School with two children on the autism spectrum, volunteering became even more important to me. What we have found, living in our rural part of the state of Florida, is that there are few formal services or programs offered for children with exceptional needs. I like to refer to these as diffabilities (I did not come up with this word, but it is perfect). When our son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was having such difficulties in certain settings outside the home, our instinct was to withdraw to the safety of our home, not pursuing social opportunities outside the home, that were new or unfamiliar.
Eventually we realized that was not in anyone’s best interest. After diagnosis, we began connecting with families and organizations all over the panhandle of Florida that were on similar missions. We also came to realize that we needed to expand on special interests and explore potential new interests, leisure opportunities, future job skills and the like. We had been following the ASK-Madison 4-H Group on Facebook and had made connections with Leslie McLeod. When the opportunity arose last year at Family Café, an annual disabilities related conference in Florida, to hear about their 4-H program, we jumped at the chance to find out more. After getting to hear them talk about their program and finding out about the number of diverse opportunities 4-H offers, we decided to give it a go, in our community so we contacted our 4-H agent Angel Granger to find out how to get started. We wanted to provide a group that families could feel comfortable in participating in. We wanted those families to know, that we understand the best way for our kids to learn about participating in group activities and activities within our community, was to experience it. They often need a safe place to start, to let down their guards, to learn new skills and more importantly be given a multitude of opportunities to practice those new skills, in different situations, with different people, in different environments.”
The group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other. Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”
If you are interested in starting a similar club in your county (or helping other volunteers support exceptional youth), contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.
ASK Jackson County 4-H Facebook
Chipola Area Autism Resource Center, Inc. Facebook
Through 4-H, Victoria is able to share her skills and passions to help young people grow workforce and life skills.
Victoria Ballard came to Santa Rosa County 4-H in 2011 from Texas. Her family has been involved in 4-H since her oldest daughter turned eight. As a military spouse, Victoria has seen 4-H in two states. Prudence Caskey, the Santa Rosa County 4-H Extension Agent, has worked closely with Victoria and the two clubs that she leads. These clubs have completed projects on Marine Science, Wildlife, Horseless Horse, Robotics, and Veterinary Science; in addition to supporting a wide variety of individual projects such as poultry, photography, leadership, community service, and many more. To say that Victoria is vital to the success of the 4-H clubs that she leads would be an understatement. But the true success of the clubs comes from the dedication of the youth leaders that volunteer to serve as club officers and run the meetings and present program. The youth, ages 8-17, work together to decide their projects and activities, and learn what it takes to run an official meeting and be a leader in the community.
Victoria worked diligently to establish a summer horse day camp program. Creating the schedule, designing activities and obtaining volunteers was all part of the process, and she handled every aspect of the program. “When you find a volunteer’s passion, then you can just let them take the reins, so to speak”, says Prudence Caskey, 4-H Extension Agent. “She has a passion for horses and youth and so it was such a natural fit!”
When asked what she enjoys most about being a 4-H volunteer, Victoria says, “I really enjoy teaching kids about technology and animals that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to those topics.” Prudence Caskey said, “We would not have been able to implement nor offer several programs if not for the tenacity and dedication of Victoria.”
Do you have knowledge and skills that you would like to share with young people? Consider becoming a 4-H volunteer. 4-H is in every county, in every state, and several countries, so it a perfect opportunity for military families especially. 4-H offers a wide variety of roles to fit any schedule. To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.
The month of April brings one of my favorite times of the year. We have the Easter Bunny showering us with treats on Easter and the Earth dancing on its axis for Earth Day. Pick any type of towering tree for Arbor Day and then there are a gazillion funny pranks and jokes to be told for April Fool’s Day. Add a week to highlight the wonderful generosity of volunteers giving in organizations around the world and you have one fabulous month of the year! That’s right! April dedicates a week each year, National Volunteer Appreciation Week, to recognizing and celebrating individuals that give of themselves to help others.
Kim Gilbert is a 4-H volunteer that values both the impacts she makes and receives from being involved in 4-H.
To help the month of April highlight our NW District’s large green family of fabulous 4-H volunteers, let me introduce you to one of my 4-H volunteers befitting of April, 4-H, volunteering, and bunnies, oh my! Meet Kim Gilbert, a Holmes County 4-H Volunteer, who has been the Rabbiteers Club Leader for the past two years. With two daughters in 4-H of her own, she is a true example of a 4-H parent, volunteer, and supporter. Kim fully supports the idea of 4-H being a big family and continually emphasizes this point in her 4-H club meetings. She believes in 4-H’s essential elements and strongly stresses belonging and generosity with her club members. As Kim explains, “You become a big family when you join 4-H and you can count on everyone to help out and pitch in. I love my 4-H family!”
Chloe, learned to show her rabbit before a judge in a local 4-H fair.
Kim is always full of enthusiasm, encouragement, and new ideas that she shares with the youth and their rabbits. Armed with a soft rabbit in each arm and usually sweets for each club member too, Kim hops off to get her club meeting started. With a background in raising, breeding, and judging rabbits, Kim is knowledgeable in a variety of rabbit breeds including Holland Lops, English Lops, Polish, Lionheads, Angoras, and Giant Angoras. Not raised in 4-H as a child herself, she is thankful that she is able to provide 4-H opportunities to her own daughters and also give back by volunteering through leading the 4-H Rabbiteer Club. Since Kim’s involvement with the Rabbiteers, Holmes County 4-H youth have learned how to participate in showmanship in local rabbit shows and fairs. When not leading club meetings, Kim will often times volunteer to work on exhibits and events to help staff and other clubs.
When asked which of the 4 H’s best represented her, i.e. Head, Heart, Hands, or Health, Kim stated that was actually a very hard question. As a 4-H Agent who has worked closely with her for two years, I had no doubt which one represented her immediately but I patiently waited for her own reply with a secret smile on my face. After a moment, Kim replies, “I would say it is a tie between Hand and Heart but if I had to choose, I guess I will go with Heart.” Without a doubt, she nailed the answer perfectly! Kim is definitely one that is always thinking of others first, whether it is a simple note of well wishes or a thoughtful goodie bag of treats for each youth. She leads the youth and other adults with her heart and demonstrates the role of a 4-H club leader very well, truly encompassing the passion that was founded when 4-H adopted the motto “to make the Best Better.”
Kim is a true advocate of 4-H, firmly believing that not only does she positively impact youth as a 4-H volunteer but that she is being impacted by the organization as well.
According to Kim, “4-H has totally impacted my life in a way that I would not have seen two years ago. It has changed the way I look at things, how I handle things and has also taught me more things about my own self. 4-H has also brought my own family closer, learning to share more with each other.” Ah, there’s that generosity component we 4-Hers love to spread so much!
Hop on over to http://florida4h.org/volunteers_/ to join our 4-H family!
With truly caring volunteers in our 4-H family, it’s no wonder that 4-H is one of the nation’s largest youth development organizations in the world. If you are not a 4-H volunteer yet, what is stopping you? Hop on over to our website at http://florida4h.org/volunteers_/ to join our 4-H family as a volunteer! We have something for everyone!
Russell and Julie McMillian, Gulf County 4-H Alumnae and 4-H Leaders
Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses. They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.
How did this all begin? Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club. They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc. They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…
As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life. Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School. After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch. Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business. Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time. She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.
Julie and Russell McMillian pictured with Brooke (left) and Hayleigh (right).
Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old. As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious. Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell. They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community. They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago; Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.
As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H. On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting 4-H members and any youth for that matter.
When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process. It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children. Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”
“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian. Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.” -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent
For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/. For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office. 4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.
Teens from across the panhandle joined forces to take a stand against cancer by celebrating Global Youth Service Day.
This weekend, hundreds of Florida 4-H youth are taking a stand against cancer by distributing chemo kits to cancer patients. Our 4-Hers are joining millions of others around the globe who are celebrating Global Youth Service Day during the weekend of April 21-23.
This youth-led initiative was spear-headed by Danielle Tinker, a 4-Her from Escambia County. She and a committee of youth from across the Florida panhandle collected nearly 1,000 items for chemo kits, organized them, and packaged them with a handwritten note of encouragement. One of the “H’s” in 4-H stands for “hands to larger service” and is a cornerstone of the 4-H positive youth development experience. Because of programs like this, 4-Hers are 4X more likely to give back to their communities.
Regional Specialized 4-H Agent Heather Kent shares, “It has been a honor to support these youth in this project- they continue to amaze me! I don’t know of a family that has not been touched by cancer and I can’t think of a more relevant cause to support. This project has help our group grow compassion, and has helped the cancer patients grow courage!”
Youth collected nearly 1,000 items for the kits and organized them by age group and gender.
Each kit had a handwritten note of encouragement included.
Youth sewed fabric drawstring bags to contain the kit items.
This project would not have been possible without the support of Youth Service America, State Farm and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida. Farm Credit of Northwest Florida not only supported this project monetarily, but their employees also collected and donated items for the chemo kits. This weekend marks the culmination of this project during Global Youth Service Day. Global Youth Service Day recognizes the positive impact that young people have on their communities 365 days a year. GYSD is celebrated in more than 135 countries with youth-led service projects and community events and is the largest service event in the world.
“We know that young people are uniquely suited to help solve problems – if given the opportunity,” said Steven A. Culbertson, CEO and president of YSA (Youth Service America), the leader of GYSD. “Today’s social and environmental problems are immense; we need youth in Florida to be leaders and problem solvers today, not just the leaders of a distant tomorrow.”
4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization. Over 230,000 members in the State of Florida help to make up the community of more than 6.5 million young people across America. 4-H is a non-formal, practical educational program for youth and is the youth development program of Florida Extension, a part of the University of Florida IFAS. To find out more information, or how to get involved, visit http://florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.
Learn more and browse GYSD activities around the world on the GYSD Map at www.GYSD.org.
Connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youthserviceamerica and on Twitter @YouthService and #GYSD.