4-H involves, helps community

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

The four Hs of the 4-H Club stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The main focus of all the 4-H clubs in Mower County is, as the name indicates, personal growth and development. The youngsters are eligible for membership from third grade through high school and even longer.

There is also opportunity for kindergarten through second grade children to join Clove Buds until they are old enough to become "real" 4-Hers.

During their club years, the 4-Hers learn to work together on numerous projects for the benefit of their families and communities. Family involvement plays a vital part, and many members are siblings, following in their parents' footsteps.

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Defying the chill of a blustery November morning, the Enterprise club was holding an auction sale to raise money for some of their many community projects. Along with 4-H mothers, three of the club members, Kristen, Rachel and Shannon, were the early birds. They were tending the hotdogs, cookies and hot chocolate sale, set up in the shop of Wilbur Sayles who, once a 4-Her himself, provided the site of the sale.

A little shy at first, the girls soon piped up and told about the various projects that keep them busy year around. At Christmas time they bring gifts to the Salvation Army's Toys for Tots or the Sharing Tree program. This year, they had hopes to raise enough money in time to buy material they use for making no-sew blankets as Christmas gifts for nursing home residents and others that lack family or friends to visit them. They also have gone to Comforcare nursing home for pet visits. Playing Bingo at the nursing homes is a popular activity for both residents and the visiting 4-Hers.

Young people are always well-received by the elderly; especially if they play games or bring pet animals for show and touch.

Like all the 4-H clubs, Enterprise is busy in spring and summer. They have served at the Rural Electrical Co-op (REC) spring dinner, which is one of their fund-raisers. Spring is also the best time for the enjoyable task of gardening and tree planting.

They planted trees in memory of a couple of their members who had died and have planted trees at the Enterprise Cemetery in the past.

Getting ready for the County Fair takes all year, no matter what category of projects a 4-Her enters.

The activities to choose from are many -- gardening, farming, animal care and home improvement, to name a few. There is preparatory work to be done in order for things to run smoothly. The 4-H dining room, booth and displays must be manned, every entry tagged and later judged. Assisted by an adult, a club member helps to clerk for the judging of dairy entries and recently also rabbits.

"I take a bunch of rabbits to the fair," said Shannon Sandberg, who raises rabbits together with her sister. "I'm also in Rabbit Quiz Bowl. We go around to different towns. They have competition to see who knows most about rabbits."

Shannon also partakes in Skill-a-thon, a contest similar to Rabbit Quiz Bowl, that has traveling judging teams. The function of this competition is to see who gets the most accurate placement reading in the judging.

Rachel Carlson specializes in photography and food preparation. In 2002, her photography earned her a championship at the County Fair and a blue ribbon at the State Fair. The ultimate goal of a county fair competitor is to qualify for "State."

Christen Foster entered her project in the home environment category. She earned Champion at the Mower County Fair and a purple ribbon at the State Fair.

"Then Rachel and I got champion for community pie project for our club and went to State," she said, flashing a proud smile at her partner.

The girls took turns explaining the aim of the Home Environment category.

One example is to take old furniture and fix it up as a way to improve the environment. They had bought a table at a rummage sale for $10 and refinished it. The end result was an attractive, checkerboard-top table, which now adorns their living room.

A continuous service, provided by the boys and girls of the Enterprise 4-H club, is the Adopt-a-Highway cleanup.

Considering that the country roads and highways, just like city streets, run through people's neighborhoods, littering causes hard feelings and unnecessary work for the volunteers, who do their best to keep their community sanitary and beautiful.

"Windom is the most urban club," explained Sunnee Flink, who has her daughter Jillian in the club. "We have project meetings once a month at the County Fair 4-H Building."

Sunnee stresses the importance of family involvement. Some of the Windom club ongoing projects are aimed at animal showings and dog training. Another regular activity is helping out at St. Mark's Lutheran Home, where they do the ever-popular Bingo with residents. In addition, they are planning to put on talent shows and other entertaining programs.

Nini Johnson can be reached by e-mail at newsroom@austindailyherald.com