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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.

 

Spreading the “4-H Bug”

Jerry is a retiree and currently volunteers in the 4-H learning gardens in Calhoun County, working as he is available. He also answers my many gardening questions and offers advice. I’m grateful for his commitment to the Calhoun County 4-H program, and am glad to share his 4-H story with you today in his own words. Jerry says:

“I became involved in 4-H at age nine so that I could go to camp.  My older sister and brother were going, and I didn’t want to be left out.  At camp, I caught the 4-H “bug” and it has never let me go.

As a member of 4-H, I always found new and interesting challenges to do such as learning to swim at camp, collecting insects, growing a garden, raising and showing calves and pigs, farm judging at North Florida Fair, judging beef cattle at Tampa, Florida and dairy cows at Waterloo, Iowa, and attending 4-H Congress at Gainesville.  All provided experiences and knowledge that were not available to me elsewhere.

Youth enjoying the Calhoun County 4-H Learning Gardens which Mr. Wyrick helps to maintain.

Youth enjoying the Calhoun County 4-H Learning Gardens which Mr. Wyrick helps to maintain.

Now in a volunteer capacity, I enjoy watching members grow and enjoy new and novel experiences which are available through 4-H Club programs and knowing that I am helping young people grow to be positive examples for their peers. “I continue to volunteer with 4-H because of the payback of having previous 4-H members relate to me what 4-H meant to them and how it helped them to achieve their personal accomplishments.  If young people are expected to be positive influences on society, they must be provided examples and knowledge of meaningful lives.  They must be exposed to new ideas and experiences so that they know choices are available to them.  If the next generation is to be different – is to be a positive generation – they must be taught as young people.  There are no better teaching methods than those available through 4-H Club programs.”

If you are not already a volunteer, 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!

 

Growing 4-H in Schools

Students in Mrs. Peacocks 5th grade science class explored the Laws of Motion during 4-H National Science Day.

Students in Mrs. Peacocks 5th grade science class explored the Laws of Motion during 4-H National Science Day.

It’s day two of National Volunteer Week, and today our 4-H volunteer spotlight is on Mrs. Kim Peacock. Kim is a 5th grade science teacher at Blountstown Elementary School in Calhoun County.  Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Kim about her experiences with 4-H in the classroom.

When I asked her what advice she has for someone who is thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer, she responded, “I would definitely encourage them to do it. Especially teachers. If you can have 4-H programs in your classroom, you really should. It’s ok not to know anything about the topic going into it, because that’s what school is for – learning. And it’s ok to learn along with our students sometimes.

4-H has really made a difference in my students’ lives. We’ve done so many things. An Ag Adventures field trip where they learned about local ag commodities like corn, cotton, and peanuts; National Youth Science Day, where we built and launched rockets right there at school, and embryology projects where we learned about the embryonic development of baby chicks and hatched eggs in our classroom. I probably never would have done any of these things on my own, so first and foremost is the exposure to new and different things that I think makes a difference. But beyond that, I’ve seen my students gain confidence, show curiosity, and get truly excited about math and science without even realizing it.

These are the things they will remember when they leave school. These are experiences they will never forget, and if nothing else, it makes me feel good to know that despite what life may throw at them in the future they will always have these happy childhood memories to hold on to. Any opportunity that comes my way to add a 4-H project to my classroom in the future, I’m going to take it. It’s a no brainer. This is good stuff, and our kids deserve it.”

Although our traditional programs revolve around clubs, 4-H also offers opportunities for volunteers and teachers to provide 4-H opportunities in school settings both during and afterschool.  These programs are a great way for youth to get a “taste of 4-H” before committing to longer term involvement in a club.  4-H Afterschool clubs also provide access to 4-H to youth who might not have transportation to evening or weekend club meetings.  For more information about 4-H school programs, read this previous blogpost on 4-H Opportunities for Schools.  If you are a teacher or community member that would like to make a difference at our local school,  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!

4-H school programs include not only science, but public speaking, ag awareness, and even money management to help youth learn "soft skills" that employers seek.

4-H school programs include not only science, but public speaking, ag awareness, and even money management to help youth learn “soft skills” that employers seek.