When I was growing up, my family and I never really needed special days or weeks to keep ourselves moving. I grew up on a small rural farm with loads of chores to do, was very active in sports, did music and theater, and in addition to all that was an active member in my local 4H group. I still have that pledge memorized today...

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

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I learned loads when I was a member of my local 4H group. Each year I played on the co-ed basketball leagues. I made wood crafting products for the local fair. I also showed fat hogs and even managed to have an item considered for the state fair. We did art arrangements, drawings, photos, baked goods, and loads more all as part of the 4H experience.

My father was ever-present during the early years of 4H. Constantly helping me understand the value of hard work and the value of knowledge 4H extends to kids in agriculture and sustainability, and in general about good living.

I’m going to focus on the 4H aspect of my youth now and a very significant week that is coming up. One in which we need more volunteers to take as an opportunity to help along and educate local youth. National Volunteer week takes place April 17th through the 23rd and loads of organizations could use your help, just like 4H.

Each year thousands of volunteers in Iowa donate time, energy, and money to build up their communities. In fact, research from the Corporation for National and Community Service, shared by ISU Extension, found that 30.3% of adult Americans volunteered 6.9 billion hours of service, worth around $167 billion dollars in 2018. During that same period in Iowa more than 1 million volunteers contributed 56 million hours of service. That study from 2018 also showed that 41 percent of Iowans volunteer; ranking Iowa 4th among the 50 states.

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In Iowa, it takes over 7,000 volunteers to keep 4-H programs going each year. These are people who take time out of their busy lives to teach youth, both urban and rural, about the variety of things 4-H has to offer.

Some will volunteer to work as community club leaders and guide 4H members at monthly meetings, provide safe meeting locations, provide fun activities, and grant opportunities for our local kids to grow as positive citizens.

Some volunteers work with youths as project leaders. These helpers guide our youth in a less formal setting, usually project-related workshops, clinics, and training sessions. Volunteers like this also help at special events, activities, during the county fairs, and at the state fair.

Now 4-H volunteers can receive training from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in a variety of subjects and are provided with curriculum and support if needed.

My father gave his time and energy to help me grow in to a mature and hard-working young man and one of the ways he did it was by volunteering in 4H. The biggest thing I learned from my family’s involvement with 4H was that everyone has something to give. Maybe it’s a special talent only you have. Maybe it’s a new skill you’ve learned and can help others with. It could just be time with a caring adult in a safe location. Everyone out there has a different reason to volunteer —whatever your reason may be; you are needed. I may not volunteer in 4H now, but my experience with caring adults led me to volunteer on the Cascade Soccer Board and coach youth co-ed soccer in my local community each late summer and in to Fall. So, give back to your local community this year, April 17th through the 23rd. You’ll feel better for helping, and you just might help bring some joy to a local kid’s life.

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