During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions, Leon County 4-H Volunteer Evelyn Gonzalez continued to volunteer with 4-H and teach life skills to youth across Florida. Evelyn has been actively volunteering with Leon County 4-H since 2014 and when all 2020 summer camps and in-person activities were cancelled due to COVID-19, Evelyn adapted without missing a beat. Volunteer Evelyn Gonzalez immediately jumped into action and assisted with a variety of virtual programs. In the past, Evelyn has led two sewing community clubs and volunteered with a variety of 4-H programs throughout the year. When
The first virtual program Evelyn helped with was the Leon 4-H Virtual Weekly Club. This club featured different topics each week. Without being asked, Evelyn energetically joined each meeting and helped keep the kids engaged. Anytime there was a lull in participation, or the kids were being camera shy, Evelyn would excitedly jump in and help encourage participation. Her dedication and support to 4-H during this time helped youth gain the knowledge and life skills needed to be productive citizens, while keeping everyone safe.
Evelyn Gonzalez volunteered with our weekly virtual club during the pandemic.
By embracing the possibilities of online learning, Evelyn Gonzalez was able to continue to volunteer with various programs that engaged, educated, and inspired youth. She made the decision to offer her regular sewing club virtually during 2020 and plans to offer a virtual option in the new 4-H year. One of the most impactful programs Evelyn assisted with was the virtual summer camp titled Having Sew Much Fun. This camp was open to youth across the state with an average of 34 households participating each day. Evelyn helped prepare sewing instructions and provided technical assistance to campers who were having sewing machine troubles. She sewed examples of each of the daily projects to share during the virtual show and tell for camp.
Evelyn sewed examples of each of the projects during virtual sewing camp. Here is a pillow she sewed for her dog during camp! This picture was shared during our camper show and tell.
One camper was having a difficult time getting her sewing machine to work correctly and Evelyn stayed on the Zoom for an extra hour to help the camper fix her machine. The camper’s mom reached out afterward and shared that “what you all did today for her, staying on and helping her figure out the issue was the best for her and I. Her older sister had a medical emergency in Orlando and when I left yesterday to drive here, she was scared, and I know that sewing has kept her mind busy through everything. I can’t thank you enough for the extra assistance and love you showed her today with helping her fix her sewing machine issue”.
All 4-H clubs are made possible through the dedication of volunteers like Evelyn. She first learned about the need for 4-H sewing volunteers the summer of 2014 during 4-H summer sewing camp, where she volunteered with the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG). 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 continue learning about what you’re teaching [sewing].”
One club parent stated, “Ms. Evelyn is so patient with the children. She clearly puts a lot of work and energy into every meeting. The children leave with increased confidence and skill, which is evident from the huge smiles on their faces. We so appreciate Ms. Evelyn, as well as the other volunteers that give so generously of their time. The children are inspired, as well as challenged, to do more than they thought they could”.
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!
Are you interested in volunteering with 4-H? Learn more about volunteering with Florida 4-H or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension to learn about 4-H in your county!
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.”
To learn more about volunteering with Florida 4-H, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office to learn about 4-H in your county.
Sara Brake, Santa Rosa Volunteer
Sara Brake has been a Santa Rosa County 4-H volunteer for over ten years. She remembers her first experience with 4-H as an eight-year-old, stating, “My mom was a fourth-grade teacher who helped organize the Tropicana Public Speaking program at Jay Elementary. My first 4-H experience was in the summer of 1990 at a summer education program held at the Jay Civic Center; we learned about solar energy.” All of her energy goes toward the youth in the 4-H program now.
Sara is passionate about summer camp and camping at Camp Timpoochee in Niceville. She explains, “Camp meant a lot to my family and to me as my grandfather had gone to Camp Timpoochee in the 1930s, and my mom went to Timpoochee in the 1960s.”
She also remembers, “4-H Legislature was my first summer program as a Senior 4-Her.” She devotes much of her time to planning the state-wide event that teaches youth civics in a week-long, hands-on atmosphere in Tallahassee, Florida, each summer. When asked about her dedication of so much time to 4-H Legislature, she replied, “My favorite thing about Legislature as a volunteer is seeing how excited youth get when a bill they are passionate about goes the way they want.”
Sara Brake gives so much back to the 4-H program because 4-H gave so much to her. She said, “My 4-H experiences helped me become the person I am. I know there are parents today who cannot take time to take youth to events and programs. I have the flexibility to give time. Helping youth have access to programs that meant so much to me when I was a youth is what keeps me volunteering.”
Santa Rosa County 4-H and youth from across the state of Florida, thank you, Sara Brake, for all of your hard work and dedication to our youth.
To learn more about volunteering with Florida 4-H or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension to learn about 4-H in your county.