Not to be discouraged by their numbers, the small Country Clover 4-H club of Lucas County continues to do big things. The three-member club inspired 75 clubs, two county councils and two businesses in Iowa to respond to their community service challenge, and some of the clubs were more than 15 times their size.
“We’re an old club, but most of our members were seniors last year,” said their leader Tammie Ruth. For the club, however, their challenge was never about the numbers anyway. “The clubs didn’t tell us how much money they gave, but that’s not what we wanted to know anyway. We didn’t set an amount, and we don’t want to make it a contest.”
It started last November when the club decided to donate their annual pizza party funds to their local food bank and then challenged every county and 4-H club in the state to reach out to their local food pantries during the holiday season.
Some clubs sponsored a family or two in their county and bought gifts for every member. Others also bought food for their adopted families. They went to shelters and served food over the Christmas holiday. They organized bake sales. They hosted food drives, and many donated money or additional non-perishables to their local pantries. Like the Country Clovers hoped, though, it was hardly the size of the donations that mattered to many.
Small Efforts Aren't “Small”
“You find out that small things are not small at all,” said Laurie Pemberson, leader of the Go Getters 4-H Club of Washington County. “It makes a big difference to someone else, and it makes a big difference in their (the 4-H’ers) character.”
Fellow Washington County 4-H club leader Nancy Adrian agreed. “It makes a big impact on the community when they see kids pitching in and taking part in service, and it’s definitely important for the kids. They need to share part of the responsibility in supporting the community,” said the leader of the Good Luck 4-H Club.
4-H'ers Give Back to Communities Year-Round
These efforts, however, are only a small sample of what 4-H’ers do all year long. Planting trees, picking up trash in parks, helping out at community fundraisers, maintaining the state 4-H camp, building benches and picnic tables for their community, landscaping and painting county fairgrounds, sending care packages to soldiers overseas and cleaning roadside ditches are only a fraction of what 4-H clubs across the state do year-round to give back to their communities.
“When the challenge came out we knew we would participate because we’re a very service-oriented club,” said Karla Kenne, leader of the Lott’s Creek Lassies and Lads of Kossuth County. “It’s not just about community service now either. It’s for when they get older too.”
Murray Monson, leader of the Harrison Hilltop Hornets all-boys 4-H club of Boone County, agreed. “The 4-H motto about giving your head, heart, hands and health says it all,” he said. “I have two boys ages 24 and 26, and they continue to go places and volunteer. It all started with 4-H and helping people. 4-H is a beginning.”
Those exact things are what Ruth and the Country Clovers hope to encourage with their extended challenge deadline. They have already put together a three-ring binder and display of all the newspaper clippings and pictures they received from clubs that responded to the initial challenge, and they hope to hear from more clubs across the state by May 31 to add to their project.
“A lot of people think they have to do something above and beyond what they normally do to respond to the challenge. We want them to be aware that a lot of clubs already do community service and recognize those that do,” said Ruth, “and we just hope people will continue to give. Hunger has no season.”
About the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program
4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth participates in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations, and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact your Iowa State University Extension county office at www.extension.iastate.edu/ouroffices.htm or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4H.