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“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

Volunteers inspiring young minds

Every Spring during Walton County Spring Break, a local group of women collaborate with the Walton County 4-H program to deliver a special interest day camp for youth in the area.  This day camp, Stitch Perfect, was developed by the Chautauqua Quilters Guild and Jena Gilmore, the Walton County 4-H Agent.  Stitch Perfect teaches youth participants everything from hand stitching, sewing tools, and equipment, to advanced sewing techniques.

Walton County 4-H has been extremely fortunate that this three-day day camp comes with a small cost, due to the Chautauqua Quilters Guild donating all materials, machines, and volunteer power while 4-H provides no-sew projects, environmental topics, STEM, and alternative sewing activities (crochet, weaving, etc).  Due to the collaboration efforts and strong partnership with the Guild, this program has been one of the highest demanded annually!  To serve more youth, 4-H expanded the reach of this project from 10 to 20 campers by dividing the youth into beginner and advanced classes.


Macie’s Masterpiece Headquarters

Four years ago, Macie, a 4-H day camper, attended Stitch Perfect and fell in love with the art of sewing and quilting.  The following year, she was so excited to attend Stitch Perfect and show off what she had been working on, however, her family planned a trip to Disney.  Macie was distraught and actually shared with her mother she would’ve rather attended Stitch Perfect!  While Macie still enjoyed her time at Disney, she has been able to attend Stitch Perfect in following years to gain skills in cross stitching, weaving, and advanced sewing.


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of preventative equipment, Macie felt inspired to take action by utilizing the sewing skills she has learned over the years at 4-H Stitch Perfect with the Chautauqua Quilters Guild!  She created her own work space in her bedroom, determined her pattern, secured her supplies and tools and went to work creating beautiful masterpieces in the form of surgical masks, to share with her community.  Macie’s inspiration sparked after her mother, a postal worker, expressed the need and lack of supplies such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks for postal workers.  After all, they are on the front lines dealing with COVID-19 as they directly handle thousands of pieces of mail daily that have been handled tens of thousands of times prior to being delivered to their facility for sorting and delivery!


A display of finished sewing project-face masks

Macie’s Masterpieces

Macie is an outstanding example of just how impactful 4-H is on the lives of the youth that participate in 4-H programming.  Like so many other programs available, 4-H Stitch Perfect helped Macie to develop and master essential life skills such as critical thinking, decision making, concern for self and others, etc. With over 70 different 4-H project areas from sewing, gardening, animal science, to computer science and rocketry, there are plenty of topics to work with youth to develop their life skills and make a meaningful impact like the Chautauqua Quilters Guild did on Macie with the 4-H Stitch Perfect program.  If you would like to get involved in your local 4-H program as a volunteer, please visit to apply online or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations, open to all youth, ages 5-18, and available in every community. For more information on how youth can join or the many 4-H projects available, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit today.

Christmas Memories Gifts in a Jar

DIY gifts in mason jars for the holidays

A variety of yummy treats in jars to give as gifts for the holidays.

One of my fondest memories around the holidays was making special presents with my mom. Often we would make cookies, to share with our neighbors and then give them a jar with the dough mixture and special instructions for making more. In fact, I’m sharing some of the recipes from my colleagues in Kentucky, North Dakota and Iowa Extension. We used recipes similar to these when I was little. I remember making spoons with dip seasonings on a wooden spoon with a cute bow and holly. We also used jars to put together a cookie or soup recipe. We would usually present the individual with a taste treat and a little note how to prepare the next batch with their jar.




The great thing is you can do this with your children, teach them fractions and help with measuring skills, in the name of FUN! You can also help them enhance their creative skills. Decorations can be simple or elaborate depending on the amount of time you have. You are teaching them to productively use their time and sharing the great feeling of giving to others. Plus, you can include a science lesson on being a good conservationist by recycling and how you are being good to the environment. In fact, the conservation principles: reduce, reuse and recycle, can be applied to the entire gift giving process. Reducing will have the greatest impact on our environment because you are actually eliminating the purchase and use of another product. The way to do this with gifts in a jar is by reusing jars from pickles, mayonnaise and other food items. Just clean them thoroughly.

If you have limited dollars to use for gift giving, this can be a very economical option.  Especially making the cute spoons for dips that the receiver would just add sour cream or mayonnaise to complete the dip. Remember when giving the gifts, take into consideration any food allergies. If you do not have the means to do gifts from the jar, perhaps a gift of your time or talent would be more appropriate than an actual product, like a coupon for mowing the lawn, raking leaves, babysitting, etc. Another option would be to share some of your favorite recipes cards, so your friends can also enjoy your favorite dishes. Other ways you can save is by reusing and recycling gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons and other packaging material.

So gifts in a jar can be a great way to have a few extra gifts under the tree for those individuals who love your cookies, candy, soup etc. It is also great for those individuals you didn’t plan for but want to give them a little something.

Special thanks to Paula Davis, UF/IFAS Bay County 4-H Agent, for providing this article and picture.

Join Us for Our 4-H Volunteer Leadership Academy

Green flyer with white text explaining the Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy

Each third Thursday of the month starting in January 2020, we will be offering the 4-H Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy at 11:30 AM Central.  Join us as we share a different topic each month that will give our volunteers more knowledge and tools that will help positively impact the youth in our communities as well as the opportunity to network with other volunteers in the 4-H community!  As an added bonus, volunteers will also have the opportunity to earn a digital badge to display on their social media.

Registration Information

Registration is required and can be found at  Once registered, you can join each session live through Zoom.  In addition, if you are unable to connect live, all monthly webinars will be available to you on demand as they are recorded.  Register early – seats are limited to the first 100 registrants.  As a registered participant, you will have access to all of the sessions available.  You will also be able to view them as often as you like.  Missed a session?  No problem!  You will receive a courtesy email letting you know how to access the missed session on demand.

4-H Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy

  • January- Preparing for County Events Showcase
  • February- Professional Portfolio Tips
  • March- Projects & Record-keeping
  • April- Awards & Recognition
  • September*- Judging Contests
  • October*- Preparing for Exhibits & Shows

*Fall session registration will be available July 1, 2020.

Webinar Viewing Information

Join each live session simply with one click from your phone, tablet or computer, using the Zoom app.  Once you have registered, you will receive email communication regarding the Zoom session links, dates and times.

So, go ahead, register now!  Secure your seat for the 4-H Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy!  Not a current 4-H volunteer?  Not a problem!  Join the 4-H family today – the process to become a volunteer is relatively simple:  visit to apply online or stop in to your local UF IFAS County Extension Office and meet your 4-H Extension Agent for assistance. #4HVVLA

Inspiring by Doing: Quincee Messersmith is a Role Model in Action

Quincee Messersmith serves as the Wakulla 4-H Advisory Council chairwoman and as co-leader of the 4-H IncrEdibles Cooking Club. When she is not volunteering with Wakulla 4-H, her duties as a Wakulla County Commissioner keep her busy.

This devoted volunteer and public servant is a wife, mother, and a cancer survivor. There are few events in Wakulla where Quincee cannot be found making a difference. She is just as likely to don an apron to wash dishes in the kitchen as she is to be acting as mistress of ceremonies.

Quincee, along with other 4-H volunteers distributed supplies after Hurricane Michael.

What is a role model?

According to Quincee, “A role model is someone who shows passion and inspires, has a clear set of values, demonstrates commitment to the community, is selfless and accepts others, and has the ability to overcome life’s obstacles.”  Quincee believes role models can make a big difference in a child’s life. She believes that “role models, like goals, can truly be the emotional or intellectual bridge to a child’s future. A child who finds an adult who “lives-out” the selfless image they portray, and who engages in hands-on activity with that child to help them accomplish something by their own efforts, no matter how simple, then has a mental picture of whom they want to be when they grow up.”

Why Volunteer with 4-H?

In Quincee’s own words, “Children need direction, discipline, leadership and something positive to guide their lives and to help them pick the right path as they go and grow.”

Quincee believes that the youth in 4-H programs are no different from youth involved in any other service club. Each has different passions and interests, and each also has different economic structures and parental involvement..”

She explained, “The common goal for me with regard to being a 4-H role model is that we all are in need of an adult or mentor to whom we can look to for help and direction. If children find someone assisting them at their level that has a community reputation for leadership, someone who is involved at high levels of neighborhood activity and the daily conversations of their communities, they are not only interested, but also often fascinated. Situations such as this can make the positive difference in a child’s life.”

Living the 4-H Way

The four “H’s” have inspired Quincee in her approach to service and being a role model.

She said, “for me personally the 4-H Head, Heart, Hands and Health embodies something that we could all use more of in our lives, I believe that concentrating on these four H’s can help make our communities stronger and more sustainable for the future

Quincee led 4-H youth in serving cake at the county’s founding day celebration on “Wakulla Wonderful” Day.

Agri-Science Summit: A National 4-H Opportunity

Youth separating cheese curds

Participants cutting cheese curds at the 2019 Agri-Science Youth Summit, National 4-H Convention Center. Photo credit: Marie Arick

Are you interested in an in-depth exploration focused on agriculture, animal sciences, and wildlife biology?  The National Youth Agri-Science Summit is an experience for teens in 9-12 grade where you’ll explore different agricultural aspects through hands-on workshops and activities.  Held January 9-12, 2020, you’ll travel to the National 4-H Conference Center just outside of Washington, DC, for the event.

Ted McKinney, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs, US Department of Agriculture, will kick off the event.  Also featured is a Career Fair panel that includes Park Rangers, Community Garden Specialists, Veterinarians, and various University Extension personnel. A small sample of session titles are:

  • The Magic of Digestion
  • Teens Teach Environmental Science
  • Exploring Dairy Science Say Cheese
  • Entomophagy: Food for the Future.

The experience wouldn’t be complete without being treated to trips into Washington DC – a trip to the Smithsonian and an evening tour of the National Mall.

This opportunity for teens in grades 9-12 will be held at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The youth participant cost begins at $610 per participant. Chaperone costs begin at $725. These costs cover all materials, activities, lodging, and meals. Other travel costs should also be considered. If you are interested in attending this event, contact your 4-H Agent.

Inspire Kids to Pledge their Head to Clearer Thinking

People often ask- “what do the “H’s” in 4-H mean?  A great way to answer this question is with the 4-H Pledge.  Our pledge describes what each “H” means.  The first line of the pledge is “I pledge my head to clearer thinking.”  It is a simple yet profound statement.  How much better would the world be if we all thought clearly, more often?  4-H programs intentionally provide opportunities for youth to learn how to make decisions and solve problems.  We do this through the “learning by doing” technique.  Youth learn by doing- not just listening or watching.  During a typical club meeting, workshop or camp, youth will be getting their hands dirty learning about building robots, food safety or how to care for an animal.  Participation in contests and judging teams also help youth think on their feet with a clear head. Another way 4-Hers learn to problem solve is through service to their community.  4-Hers are asked each year to identify a problem in their community and develop a plan to solve that problem in the form of a service learning project.  As 4-Hers learn new knowledge and skills, they are given challenges to solve, which means that they not only have to have a clear head, they have to work as a team.

Our 4-H volunteers are essential to helping youth develop the first “H.”  Our volunteers use 4-H curriculum and learn-by-doing teaching techniques to help youth learn cooperation and problem solving skills.  If you are interested in inspiring the next generation of youth people, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office to find out about opportunities to share your knowledge, skills and passion to develop future leaders, scientists and citizens to think with a clear head!