Growing Independence Through 4-H Clubs
Today is our final post for this year’s National Volunteer Week Celebration. We’ve heard from several different types of volunteers- project club leaders, school volunteers, gardening volunteers and SPIN club volunteers. Today we will hear from Mrs. Linda Jones, a Gadsden County 4-H Community Club Volunteer. After retiring from a career of teaching, Mrs. Jones stopped by her local county extension office to ask some questions about her small farm. During her visit, the former county extension director, Dr. Henry Grant, told her about the 4-H program and asked if she would like to get involved as a volunteer. Mrs. Jones was sold! Since then, her club has been involved in multiple service projects that support local community members such as Second Harvest Food Bank and Relay for Life. Her club also participates in the North Florida Fair. In addition to being a community club leader, Mrs. Jones is also a certified overnight chaperone and chaperones youth every summer at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake. When asked what she enjoys most about her volunteer role with 4-H, Mrs. Jones shared:
“I taught school for 30 years, so I have a love of learning. I love that 4-H has so many different curricula and that almost everything in 4-H is a learning opportunity. I am just a kid at heart, and 4-H is a playground for learning.”
Mrs. Jones shared that another thing she appreciates about 4-H is their focus on safety. Paperwork and safety trainings are not her favorite aspect of 4-H, but Mrs. Jones admits that she sees the value in it and appreciates the protection it provides to both her and the kids in her club. “As a teacher, I am more focused on the learning part, but 4-H has trained me to keep safety a priority. For example, I wanted to take the kids horseback riding, and my agent pointed out that for 4-H activities, youth must wear a helmet while riding horses. I wouldn’t have thought of that on my own, but 4-H has my back. The legal ramifications can be challenging, but as a mother and grandmother, I see the value.”
In addition to being a community club leader, Mrs. Jones is also a certified overnight chaperone and chaperones youth every summer at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake. For years, she has taken her grandchildren to camp, who have acted reluctant to go. Recently, she learned that her grandkids may need to move for her daughter’s new job. She was shocked to learn that their first reaction to the news was dismay that they would have to miss Camp Cherry Lake! Mrs. Jones chaperoned 4-H University for the first time this past year, and she recalls a favorite memory of this 1st time experience. “Two of the youth that I took to 4-H University were graduating seniors and would soon be leaving for college. One of the most important things they took away from that experience was a real feeling of independence. One of the youth shared that having her own dorm room key made her feel grown up and mature. That is not what I would have expected, and it seems like a simple thing, but it is important.”
If you are thinking about becoming a community club volunteer, Mrs. Jones offers a word of advice, “Don’t get discouraged by the rules, regulations and policies- they will become your best friend and are in place to protect both you and the young people you are impacting.” If you would like to make a difference in your community the way that Mrs. Jones has, 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- we hope you have enjoyed this year’s series with a peek inside some of the roles our volunteers serve!