Sara as a young lady received a medal for her 4-H project.
In honor of National 4-H Week, we are sharing the stories of some of our alumni in the Florida Panhandle. Today, we highlight an alumna from Wakulla County! Sara Hillier grew up in Wakulla County, FL, and was active in the 4-H Program. She participated in the local Horse Club, as well as several other county 4-H programs. Sara enjoyed taking canoe trips to learn about natural resources in Wakulla County, and working with others to protect nature by picking up litter. Her favorite 4-H memory was attending summer camp at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake in Madison, FL. She remembers spending the week there with many of her friends and all nine of her first cousins. As a teenager, Sara served as a camp counselor at Cherry Lake.
Sara is chaperoning 4-H Day at the Capitol
Sara knew that as soon as her own children were old enough, she wanted them to have many of these same experiences, so she enrolled all three of them in 4-H. Recently, Sara decided she wanted to pay it forward to the program she is so fond of, and made the switch from 4-H mom to 4-H volunteer. Today, Sara leads the Wakulla County Outdoor Adventures Club so she can share her spark for the great outdoors with the next generation. If you have knowledge, skills, or expertise, please consider sharing them through 4-H. We offer flexible opportunities to share your passion with today’s youth. If you are not familiar with 4-H, check out our 4-H Volunteer Welcome Packet for answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a volunteer and schedule a meeting with your local UF/IFAS 4-H Agent.
Today Sara is paying it forward by leading a 4-H Outdoor Adventure Club
Sherry Anderson once said, “Volunteers don’t get paid because they are worthless, they are priceless.” One of the most valuable gifts you can give is your time, talent, and knowledge. On any given day, 4-H volunteers are doing just that because they care about their communities. This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we want to thank the 800+ adults who volunteer with 4-H in the panhandle of Florida. Last year, they reached more than 13,000 school-age youth- which was a challenge given the global pandemic. Volunteers in the panhandle donated more than 12,000 hours of service, which is valued at more than $300,000!
It’s easy to talk about the impact of volunteers in numbers, but the real impact is the investment they make in young people. The 4-H program focuses on training volunteers to build the right environment for youth to thrive. This includes adhering to the eight principles of quality youth programming, facilitating sparks, and developing caring relationships. This setting provides a rich context for youth to grow socially and emotionally. This is not an easy task, and that is what makes our volunteers so special. They are willing to work hard to see youth success in work and life. Read more about the 4-H Thrive Model.
Over the past few years, we have shared dozens of stories about our volunteers and the impact they have on communities and youth. These stories are linked below for your inspiration and to show our appreciation! Also check out our playlist on YouTube for more about how our volunteers are making a difference!
Often times we think of 4-H programming in the traditional context of agricultural education through school and community clubs. What we often forget is how diverse an audience the 4-H program actually serves. Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola is the home to two youth centers, the NAS Pensacola Youth Center and the Corry Station Youth Center. Every day the staff of these centers welcome and care for military youth in their charge. The staff at these centers work diligently to incorporate 4-H programming into their centers, serving as 4-H screened and trained volunteers. They provide the youth they serve a myriad of opportunities to develop life skills as well as give back to their community.
Youth participate in a workshop led by Santa Rosa County Horticulture Agent, Matt Lollar, during the Try a Day of Camp designed to provide youth a one day introduction experience to the Florida 4-H residential camping program.
The NAS Pensacola 4-H club and the Corry Station 4-H club offer their youth a chance to engage in all aspects of 4-H programming. While some youth may be involved in the 21 day long embryology project, others may be focused on the archery programs, or maybe they are even doing both! Youth from these centers are often engaged in community service projects like volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House or collecting various items for those in need. Not to mention the grilling, hay bale decorating, and fair entries OH MY! To make a complete list of the projects the youth at these centers are involved in would be… exhausting! These clubs facilitate high quality programming through the dedication of the staff at these centers. Without them, these programs would not exist.
Breaking the Mold
NAS Pensacola 4-H Club placed second in the 2019 Escambia County 4-H hay bale decorating contest.
While one might have the mental image of a 4-H volunteer being a parent or relative of a youth already in the program, this is not the case for many of the volunteers with the NAS Pensacola and Corry Station 4-H clubs. These volunteers are unique. They complete the 4-H 101 trainings, participate in county and district wide events, and facilitate some of the best programming Escambia County 4-H has to offer. Yet, could you list one name of a volunteer who is involved in these clubs? While these volunteers run 4-H programs year round and are constantly focused on providing on new opportunities, they are not often as visible as one might expect.
We Need All Kinds of Volunteers
Youth participate in STEM activities during 4-H Club meeting.
These volunteers break the mold of a traditional 4-H volunteer. They serve a tight knit community who face many obstacles the majority of us could never comprehend. Through all of this though, these volunteers provide a sense of stability for the youth they serve. While 4-H programming is offered at Navy youth centers across the nation and the world, the volunteers at NAS Pensacola and Corry Station Youth Centers are exemplary. They even have a national award to prove it! The staff at these centers were the recipients of the 2019 National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Military Partnership Award. In comparison, this award does little to truly recognize their impact on the youth they serve. While youth center staff may not be “traditional” 4-H volunteers, they fill the need of the communities serve. A 4-H volunteer is most effective when they are able to understand the needs of the community and are able to adjust the programming to fit that need. Often times, it is through the volunteers that go unnoticed, traditional and unconventional alike, that the youth we serve are afforded the opportunities that 4-H programs offer year round.
For more information about UF/IFAS Extension programs or to learn more about how you can serve your community as a 4-H volunteer, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension.
April is National Volunteer Month. Throughout the month of April, 4-H programs in counties across the Northwest UF/IFAS Extension District from Jefferson to Escambia counties take time to recognize volunteers and the contributions those volunteers make with their time and talent to youth development in their communities. Ken Gooding is a 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteer Leader in Wakulla County. Ken serves as President for the county’s 4-H shooting sports advisory group. He also provides organizational and content expertise for the program in a volunteer coordinator capacity.
Ken Gooding volunteers on the range teaching archery and skeet shooting.
Ken co-founded the Wakulla 4-H Shooting Sports Club now known as “4-H Sharpshooters” in 2018. Since that time, the club has grown to include over forty youth members who learn archery and skeet shooting and ten adult volunteers who support club activities. In his volunteer role with Shooting Sports, Ken leads adult volunteers and develops youth leaders.
Leading Leaders of All Ages with 4-H
After he became a state certified Level One Shooting Sports Instructor in 2018, Ken continued his training at the national level. In 2019, Ken became nationally certified as a Level Two shooting sports archery instructor. This credential qualifies Ken to teach adult volunteers seeking Level One certification in archery.
For Ken, volunteering with 4-H is an expression of his passion for giving back to the community. Ken said, “I volunteer with 4-H because I believe I have a responsibility to share the skills I have with next generation and 4-H gives me the tools I need to effectively pass on this skill to a wide variety of youth in my community that would not otherwise have the opportunity that 4-H provides.
Giving Back to the Community
4-H volunteers help UF/IFAS Extension to amplify their reach into the community. Volunteers are said to be the civic heart of most communities. Ken shared his perspective on why he believes it is important to volunteer in the community:
“To actually be a member of a community, a person must have a vested interest in the success of the community. In the past, that interest was expressed in the general desire to see the community as a whole grow and flourish. Each member brought a particular skillset that when joined with others enabled the community to flourish. But each member also felt a duty or responsibility was owed to the community they helped to build, the community that provided for their individual success and prosperity. This is where 4-H, only one small opportunity for our community members can give back, comes in. Every one of our neighbors has a skill or a passion that they are uniquely qualified to impart to the youth of our community and 4-H has the tools each one of us needs to see that the lessons we’ve learned over a lifetime are not lost to time.”
Ken had a message to share about why he believes everyone should take time to volunteer. He noted the tremendous efforts often exhibited during times of emergency and shared that he often wonders what good things would happen if we all put a tenth of that energy into their community on a daily basis. In closing, Ken said that if he could make an ask of the community, he would ask that, “Each and every member of every community give a little bit of themselves back to their community. Think about, with that small commitment, what kinds of changes for the better could be achieved. I’ll be willing to bet, you’ll receive a greater return for your efforts.”
When Ken is not busy with 4-H, he works as a barge captain on the Mississippi River and volunteers with the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office at the Sheriff’s shooting range. He also raises rabbits and chickens with his wife, Trena. Ken also shares his talents as a professional deejay with 4-H. Whether he is teaching archery or making the party happen with music, Ken is a valued volunteer and an inspiring role model for aspiring leaders of all ages.
For more information about UF/IFAS Extension programs, follow this link to connect with your local office.
It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week! Our 4-H volunteers invest their time into our community’s most valuable resource – our future!
Today we want to thank Stacey Warden who has led the Jackson County 4-H Livestock Club for the past six years. Stacey coaches our livestock, meats, and poultry judging teams and helps us host poultry and livestock workshops. A former 4-H national champion poultry judge herself, Stacey has coached teams that have competed successfully at the local, state, and national level.
Stacey loves to compete, but her dedication to her club members isn’t limited to just driving them to judging contests. She goes above and beyond to help her club members learn new skills, meet their goals, and chase their dreams. When asked about the impact that Stacey has made, Jackson County 4-H Livestock club member Taylor Yoder said, “Mrs. Stacey has done so much for me since I met her. She has taught me a lot about livestock and has grown my love for it. She is always pushing me to be the best I can be without overwhelming me.” Stacey’s service to her community has earned her statewide respect, but what’s truly special is that she’s captured the hearts and minds of her club members right here in Jackson County. Thank you for your service, Stacey!
Anne Peterson, recipient of the 2019 Elaine Keir Memorial Outstanding Volunteer Award.
For over 40 years, Anne Peterson has served as a volunteer for Escambia County 4-H. Anne began at an early age taking riding lessons in a barn led by a local 4-H horse club leader. That barn was where she began to adopt the knowledge and culture she would strive to emulate for the remainder of her 4-H volunteer career. Anne’s early years largely impacted her path in life, and ultimately led her to volunteer with 4-H.
Anne began volunteering with a club as a young adult, and from there. pursued every opportunity to continue her service. From volunteering at county events to volunteering at sleep over camps like Camp Timpoochee during the summer, she took the opportunities she believed in most and supported them whole-heartedly. Anne has served on multiple committees and boards at the local, district, and state levels with the goal of sharing her experiences and looking for ways to make the 4-H program stronger and better. From the horse program to the legislative program, Anne has participated in the planning and execution of county, district and state wide events. Ms. Anne even volunteers on the Area North 4-H Horse Show Committee and State 4-H Horse Advisory Committees, even though she does not have any youth who compete in the events.
Anne has not only invested years of volunteer service in 4-H, but she also shares with others her dedication and passion for 4-H and youth development, which continues to inspire the youth and families she works with. Anne’s impact has been felt in the projects she has taken on, but her ever-steady impact on the individuals she encounters, reaches far beyond what is immediately observable. Anne has never strayed far from her passion that was sparked in that barn, and as she continues to serve others, she is leaving her fingerprints
on their lives as well as the 4-H program. Anne has also received multiple awards for her service over the years, some of which include the 2019 Florida 4-H Horse Program Elaine Keir Memorial Outstanding Volunteer Award, and an induction to the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame.
A Lesson for Us All
While Anne has demonstrated an astounding longevity in her volunteer career, we must remember that she too was once a new volunteer. We all serve a role, however little or large we perceive the role to be, every role is important as that is the only way we can continue to offer quality programs. The saying “it takes a village” holds true to 4-H programming. To be an extraordinary 4-H volunteer, one need not do every role, but do one role to the best of their ability, as it is through the team of volunteers and agents that an extraordinary and impactful program is created. One role builds to other roles, and it is left to you to decide what role you will take. Regardless of the role, you have the chance to positively impact youth in your community, so ask your county 4-H agent how you can help “make the best better.”