Barbara Thole Receives Friend of Extension Award

During Extension & Outreach Week, March 24 – 31, 2013, Dubuque County ISU Extension & Outreach gave Barbara Thole the annual Friend of Extension Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the mission of ISU Extension & Outreach and Dubuque County 4-H.

“Without the involvement of volunteers like Barb, our programs would really struggle,” said Jason Neises, Program Manager for Dubuque County Extension & Outreach.  “I’m glad that our Extension Council chose to recognize Barb’s contribution with this award and thank her for many years of exceptional service.”

Hard-working volunteers are the backbone of Extension & Outreach, and Barbara Thole has served in many vital roles in Dubuque County dating back to her earliest role as a 4-H leader.  In 1984 she was encouraged to get involved by fellow leaders Jim Pancratz and Barbara Sauser.  Her children were in the Washington Senators 4-H club, and Thole worked alongside the youth on fundraisers, leadership activities, and educational events.  She also contributed on many county-wide 4-H projects including junior and intermediate day camps, leader trainings, and chaperoning trips to State 4-H Conference and Washington DC.

Along with other leaders like Daryl Biechler, Linda Chmelar and Mary Sue Green, Thole was a founder of the Dubuque County Fair 4-H Food Stand that raises money to offset enrollment and program expenses.  “I’m very proud of the collective effort that was made to establish this important funding source for county-wide 4-H activities.  Everyone worked together and made a big difference in the lives of a lot of kids,” said Thole. 

Thole also served continuously on the Dubuque County Extension Council from 1989 until her retirement from the council in 2012.  The Extension Council is a volunteer board that oversees the budget and activities for the Dubuque County office.  While on the council she served in nearly all the leadership roles, including chair, vice chair, treasurer and secretary.  Extension & Outreach saw much change during her tenure on the council, including moving office locations, helping to establish the Multi-cultural Family Center, and working to pass the referendum providing more funds to the Extension District.  “When I first joined the Council it was very focused on agriculture and 4-H,” noted Thole.  “Extension programming now includes more diverse activities like the Master Gardeners, families & finance, and urban outreach.”

Thole is originally from Andrew, Iowa in Jackson County.  She grew up on a farm with six siblings but was not involved with 4-H herself as a child.  She married her husband Rick in 1973 and has four children and five grandchildren, all of whom are living around eastern Iowa.  Thole got her teaching degree from Clarke and advanced education degrees from Drake and Morningside.  She is currently teaching at Hillcrest School in Maquoketa.

The Dubuque County Extension Council recognized Barbara Thole’s service and leadership through this award and appreciates her long-term dedication to the mission of Extension & Outreach in Dubuque County.

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