Volunteers Are Key Part of 4-H

AMES, Iowa—There’d be no 4-H clover without heads, hearts, hands and health. But the Iowa 4-H program itself would be hard pressed to continue without volunteers.

National 4-H Week

National 4-H Week is Oct. 6-12 and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is celebrating the many volunteers who guide Iowa 4-H’ers in becoming productive citizens, outstanding communicators, effective leaders and successful learners. More than 7,500 adult volunteers contribute their time, energy and expertise to engage Iowa youth in hands-on learning experiences in healthy living; science, technology, engineering and math; citizenship and leadership; and communication and the arts.

“4-H needs volunteers who are excited about sharing their skills and interests with the youth of Iowa,” said Chris Gleason, a 4-H program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. County extension offices are always looking for volunteers who want to have an impact on the future of Iowa by working with youth, explained Gleason.

“Training volunteers in positive youth development knowledge and skills helps them deliver a quality program to reach our outcomes with youth,” said Gleason.

ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development programs give youth opportunities to build their skills through short-term and long-term learning experiences. “Volunteers create fun, safe environments where lots of learning happens. We make sure we are supporting the volunteers by giving them the training and resources they need to be confident and competent in their volunteer roles,” said Gleason.

There are numerous ways to volunteer with 4-H. Volunteers lead 4-H clubs and special interest groups, work with after-school groups, guide youth committees, write newsletters in 4-H offices, chaperone, teach and much more.

Sometimes 4-H volunteerism runs in families. That’s the case with sisters Elaine Baughman and Evelyn Oliver. The two women were among the 111 4-H volunteers inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame this summer at the Iowa State Fair.

Baughman, from Shelby County, is a special education teacher at Harlan Community High School, and was involved in 4-H when she was in school. Baughman was a member of the Beacon Bombers and the Beacon Bomberettes. She showed swine each year at the Ringgold County Fair. Baughman played many roles in the Shelby County Fair through the years, and has been a judge for more than 35 years at the state and county level. Baughman’s involvement in 4-H includes note taker for judges, a 4-H leader, poultry superintendent, horticulture superintendent and other positions. 

Oliver, of Harrison County, was also a member of the Beacon Bombers and Bomberettes 4-H clubs. She showed pigs every year during her time in 4-H and had bread, a yardstick holder and a constructed dress selected for exhibition at the Iowa State Fair. Oliver volunteered as a project leader for the Hawkeye Ramblers 4-H Club in Woodbine for 12 years. Oliver is also a member of the Harrison County Extension Council, retiring in January after 16 years of service.

The hard work and commitment of 4-H volunteers, like Oliver and Baughman, gives 4-H the ability to strengthen and grow its programs. “Volunteers are the fundamental bedrock of 4-H,” said Gleason.

To get involved, visit your county extension office.