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Greg James Grows Community Pride by Volunteering

People choose to volunteer for a multitude of reasons.  In the case of Wakulla County 4-H volunteer Greg James,  there seem to be few reasons why he wouldn’t want to volunteer to meet a need in his community – especially if it helps youth.

Why Greg Volunteers

“Volunteering in my community is very important to me. I believe serving your community in some fashion helps create a sense of pride, belonging and ownership. I think it’s important to provide our children a positive environment in which to grow. Volunteering for 4-H allows me to foster that environment.”

Man and girl on the set of a TV show to promote a 4-H event.

Greg James joined a 4-H Club member to promote an upcoming community event.

Thirty Years of Investment 

While Greg (and his wife of close to 30 years, Karen) live in Sopchoppy, there are few areas of the county where Greg’s volunteerism has not had an impact.  While Greg and Karen’s children have grown up and left the county to pursue college and careers, involvement with area youth has remained a constant in his life since moving to the county in 1995.

In his professional life, Greg wears two hats – he serves as the Wakulla County Finance Director and the Deputy Clerk of Court.  Some community members may know him best as the minister of the Sopchoppy Church of Christ.

On almost any given day, Greg can found serving his community – as a volunteer cross country coach, stirring a pot at a Low Country Boil charity event, cleaning up the coastline or lending time to a local civic committee.  For the last two years, Greg has served in a leadership role with the Wakulla County 4-H and Extension Advisory Councils, and he started a 4-H Finance Club last summer to help local teens learn financial management skills.

Hands On Leadership 

Youth showing a chicken to a man.

Greg observes a 4-H Poultry Club member demonstrate chicken handling at a community event.

In service to 4-H, Greg give his financial expertise and his hands – figuratively and literally. To celebrate the success of the 4-H Chicken Champs Club, he made people-sized chicken figures that have become a popular photo opportunity at 4-H events. His most recent undertaking is still in progress – refurbishing old metal bleachers by hand for the 4-H Archery Club range.

Sali Polotov, a Future Leaders Exchange Program student from Tajikistan, is a member of the 4-H Finance Club and shared his thoughts on learning with Greg as club leader.  “He is a great leader and speaker. Every time I go to Finance Club, I explore something new. He explains difficult things so easily. Also, he has a great collection of foreign coins!

Greg wasn’t introduced to 4-H until his own children were growing up and completed swine projects.  “Now that I know all of the great programs 4-H offers, I wish I had been more involved.”

As a volunteer leader, Greg also works to recruit more volunteers to help grow 4-H programs. His advice to anyone who thinks they might want to volunteer is simple – “Don’t wait!”

Make a Difference with 4-H – Volunteer

Greg said, “I would ask that (people) stop thinking about it and just do it!  Our 4-H program depends heavily on volunteers, and what we are able to accomplish is only limited by the number and caliber of our volunteers. Please volunteer and make a positive impact on your community and our kids!”

For more information on how to become a 4-H volunteer in your community, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.  To see how 4-H is positively impacting the lives of Panhandle youth, follow us on Facebook.

awards event

Greg James prepares to swear in new 4-H Association leaders for 2019.

Additional Resources:

Bring a Little Zen to Volunteers and Youth with 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs

Bring a Little Zen to Volunteers and Youth with 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs

Making lotions and bath scrubs, practicing relaxation and doing yoga…doesn’t this sound like a great 4-H club program?  Discover 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs are a great way to learn about homemade body products while learning relaxation techniques.  Youth create a day at the spa by making lotions, soaps, scrubs and lip balms while learning methods to relax like tennis ball massages, creating a happy list, doing yoga and creating a zen garden. An added bonus is homemade products are a fraction of the cost of purchasing and make great gifts for friends and family.

Make your own Luxurious Bath Salts

Ladies making homemade beauty products.

Naval Support Activity-Panama City staff learning how to making calm bags.

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 cup Epsom salt ( scented or plain)
  • Use 3-5 drops fragrance oil designed for soaps or diluted essential oil for plain Epsom salt
  • Mix ingredients
  • Spoon the mixture into storage containers (wide mouth jars, bowls or zip style bags work well)
  • Label your container with ingredients and direction for use – Pinterest has several cute label designs

Caution:  Essential oils are very strong and can be a skin irritant if applied directly to your skin. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommends diluting essential oils with a carrier oil:  use 1 teaspoon of  coconut, almond, olive, sunflower or jojoba oil with 2 – 12 drops of the desired essential oil. Then, mix 3-5 drops of the diluted oil to your bath salt mixture.  Bath salts are generally safe for most when used properly, but you should talk to your doctor before using bath salts if you have medical conditions such as skin diseases, heart disease or diabetes.

How to Use Your Bath Salts:  Fill your tub halfway with warm to hot water, and pour in about 1/2 cup (120 g) of bath salts. For a stronger concentration, you can always add more. If you prefer showers, take a handful and rub over desired area. Bath salts are great to exfoliate by removing dead skin cells leaving the skin smooth and fresh.  Tired achy feet or hands?   No problem!  Add salts to warm water in a dishpan, and immerse your feet or hands and soak away the pain.

Two women preparing homemade beauty products.

NSA-PC staff learning the 4-H Spa & Relaxation Curricula they will use in their 4-H programs.  

For more information on 4-H and other programs like this, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit Florida 4-H.  

Are you an adult looking for ways to coach, teach and mentor youth?  Contact the 4-H Agent in your county and enroll as a volunteer in 4-H Online.  Volunteering not only strengthens the 4-H club, but also shows young people how to live with integrity, optimism, hope, determination, compassion, responsibility and resiliency – skills that will help them succeed in life.

Resource:

Discover 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs curriculum 

Volunteering Makes Good Sense

Nate Grimsley is known for teaching crafts at 4-H camp each year.

Nate Grimsley is known for teaching crafts at 4-H camp each year.

In a world where so many things don’t make sense, Nate Grimsley has discovered something that does.  Ten years ago, Nate’s daughter won 1st place at the Leon County 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Program and was awarded a full scholarship to Camp Cherry Lake.  Nate had attended camp at Cherry Lake as a camper decades earlier and after being asked 9 years ago by 4-H agent Marcus Boston to consider attending camp as a volunteer he said “Yes!” and has never looked back. Today, Nate still serves as a chaperone for camp, but he also teaches art and crafts classes during the week.  He has taught hundreds of youth how to make paracord bracelets and to weave fans and insect models out of native palmetto leaves.  He is so good at his volunteer role that he is often asked to volunteer at other county camp weeks and even the State Shooting Sports Camp.

“Volunteering is rewarding- I love teaching and it is so fulfilling to give back and to set a positive example for kids.   I had a learning disability when I was growing up, so I have a different perspective on how kids learn.  I have one rule- they are never allowed to say ‘I can’t.’ They can say they don’t understand, but never ‘I can’t’.  It is so rewarding to see them succeed.”

Nate teaches youth to use palmetto branches to weave fans, baskets and even 3-dimensional insect models.

Nate teaches youth to use palmetto branches to weave fans, baskets and even 3-dimensional insect models.

Nate’s example has had a huge impact on his own children.  Both of his children served as teen leaders for 4-H.  His son’s cabin always won “cleanest cabin” and his daughter was such a good counselor that he was invited to intern at a camp in Maine.  “The leadership skills that my kids learned at camp helped both of them land their first jobs.  It is a great program and parents and teens should take advantage of it.”  Marcus Boston and Stefanie Prevatt, 4-H faculty at the Leon County UF/IFAS Extension Office, have developed a strenuous but highly effective camp counselor leadership program.  Even though it is a volunteer position, teens must complete an application, screening, interview and 30-hour training program in order to serve.

Even though Nate’s kids have graduated out of the 4-H program, he continues to serve.  In addition to being a certified chaperone, he is also certified to teach archery through the 4-H Shooting Sports program.  Erlier this year, he taught workshops for teens at adults at the Northwest Teen Retreat and 4-H State Volunteer Leader’s Forum.

“I am still involved because I just love kids and I love seeing them learn.  I have always volunteered in different ways- school boosters, organized sports, but I love volunteering in 4-H so much that my wife and I are starting a 4-H club this fall- the ‘Good Sense 4-H Club.’  Our goal is to help kids learn how to problem solve and make good decisions now and later in life.”

Nate's palmetto-leaf grasshoppers are a popular camp craft.

Nate’s palmetto-leaf grasshoppers are a popular camp craft and are extremely realistic looking.

Nate encourages everyone he knows to volunteer.  He holds down a full-time job, but has always been able to work with his supervisor to make time for volunteering.  “Being a volunteer is a great means of networking.  I have met so many interesting people through my volunteer work.  I find joy in giving back to others.  God has given so much to me- I want to pay it forward.  Also, we need solid role models to teach kids how to be independent.  4-H is a great way to do just that.”

4-H offers a wide range of volunteer positions to fit various schedules, interests and abilities.  To find out more about volunteering and what is available in your community, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers.

Volunteers SPIN into 4-H and Find New Friends and Opportunities!

Becky Pengelley, SPin Sewing volunteer

Becky Pengelley, SPin Sewing volunteer

Many of our greatest relationships can be traced back to chance encounters. Evelyn Gonzalez and Becky Pengelly, the Leon County 4-H Sewing SPIN (Special Interest) Club Leaders, met by chance though the encouragement their 4-H Agent, Stefanie Prevatt. Evelyn learned of Leon County 4-H in the summer of 2014 through her service with the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. A few short weeks later, Becky found the 4-H Office after learning about the program through her college coursework at the University of Florida. Both had a love of sewing, a passion for working with youth, and jam-packed schedules.  Not to be deterred, Evelyn and Becky quickly decided Florida 4-H’s new SPIN club model was the best fit for their busy schedules. When asked why she choose to volunteer with 4-H, Evelyn replied:

“Volunteering is always gratifying. There is a need and you are trying to fill it. Working with youth is stimulating and rewarding. They are smart, fast, and funny. They make me laugh. You learn about what makes kids tick, what their concerns are, and you learn about what you are teaching [sewing].

Evelyn Gonzalez teaching youth how to sew patches of a quilt.

Evelyn Gonzalez teaching youth how to sew patches of a quilt.

Sewing is expensive. The cost of material is the number one concern for the continual operation of the Leon County 4-H Sewing SPIN Club. Fees are necessary for some projects, but Evelyn and Becky work around this issue. Evelyn has lived in Tallahassee for years and has used her connectedness to solicit fabric donations to reduce fees for club members. Becky is a repurpose queen with a passion for teens. When asked what inspires her to continue to be a 4-H volunteer, Becky replied: The teens in our clubs come to each meeting so excited about what we are going to do, and they have so many ideas about what they will make once they learn4-H has provided opportunities for [them] to learn things that they wouldn’t learn anywhere else in the community.

The Leon County 4-H Sewing SPIN club has been serving Tallahassee since early 2015. With each new “spin,” members embark on a journey of learning new skills and creating projects that show their mastery of the subject. One parent stated: “Ms. Evelyn and Ms. Becky are so patient with the students.  They clearly put a lot of work and energy into every meeting.  The students leave with increased confidence and skill, which is evident from the huge smiles on their faces.  We so appreciate these two ladies, as well as the other volunteers that give so generously of their time.   The students are inspired, as well as challenged, to do more than they thought they could.”

Evelyn and Becky teach youth and parents to sew!

For those thinking about volunteering with Florida 4-H, Evelyn and Becky have this advice: “Don’t be afraid to work with someone different from you. Becky is a young college girl. We think we’re busy. And they’re busier. I marvel that they carve out some time on a Saturday to come help teach sewing. Share the load. Work with a team” (Evelyn) “I have had the opportunity to meet new people and to share the things I love with them! If you have something to share with children, 4-H will support you in doing this!” (Becky)

If you have a desire to make a difference in your community, think about sharing your talents with us!  You can fuel the extraordinary efforts of our youth by joining us as a volunteer.   To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers.  Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week- Come back tomorrow to learn about Gadsden County Community Club Leader, Mrs. Linda Jones.