After running a 4-H club in Sarasota County for more than four decades, it’s hard for Don Strickland to let go.
“43 years ago, the Riding Rednecks 4-H Club was mainly a horse club. It was about to disband, but my two daughters were involved, so my wife and I decided to step in and keep it going,” Strickland said.
Now the club is for youth of all interests. Under Strickland’s leadership, the club has served about 2,000 youth and multiple generations of 4-H families have come through the club.
“Now we are seeing the kids and grandkids of former 4-Hers join the club,” Strickland said. The club still meets twice a month, and he takes pride in the dedication of its members.
What started a way to keep the club going for his daughters turned into a lifelong passion and one of the longest, continuously running 4-H clubs in Florida, he said.
Florida 4-H is the youth development program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. 4-H is available at the county level through 4-H Extension agents and volunteer club leaders like Strickland.
“My favorite part of leading a 4-H club is being able to influence young lives. 4-Hers are hungry and eager to better themselves, and the program gives you back more than what you put in. And these benefits are open to everyone who wants to take part,” Srtickland said.
Strickland also notes the opportunities available to youth to take their interests to the next level.
“Our daughters got to go to Washington, D.C., through the Washington Focus program. I also got to take our livestock judging club to national competitions,” he said.
Now Strickland and his wife are getting ready to hand the reins over to new club leaders. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still be involved.
“Oh, we’ll be there at the meetings. We’ll be there to mentor the new leaders. And we’re excited to see the next generation of 4-H members join the club,” he said.
Strickland has been nominated for the Salute to Excellence 2019 for the Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award from the National 4-H Council.
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307 (office), 949-735-1076 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org