AMES, Iowa – On Wednesday, April 8, Iowa 4-H challenged its members, volunteers, alumni and staff to make and donate 10,000 face masks to the people and organizations in their local communities who need them. In only nine days, the Iowa 4-H family has already met their goal.
Iowa 4-H is the youth development program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Iowa 4-H programs empower young people to be well-informed citizens who are actively engaged in their communities and the world. 4-H members pledge their “hands to larger service,” and in this challenge, they acted fast to respond to local needs, says Lisa Berkland, ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H field specialist.
Helping her community through service projects is one of Aliza Woodford’s favorite things to do as a part of 4-H. Woodford is a member of the Palo Alto Shooting Sports club. “I have donated face masks to the staff at a local coffee shop. I have also made some for my family and our foreign exchange student that had to return home early,” said Woodford. “I knew that I had the ability to make these face masks, and I wanted to help people. There are many people who are essential workers and I wanted to make a difference for them.”
There is still a need for masks in Iowa communities as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the voluntary use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.
“We encourage our 4-H members, volunteers and supporters to continue donating masks as long as the need exists,” said Debbie Nistler, Iowa 4-H state program leader. “We’ve expanded this project to encourage sewing of surgical caps and making face mask connectors. Help us keep those donation numbers growing!”
Participants in the challenge were encouraged to select a recipient of their choice. Approximately 40% of the masks donated so far were donated to hospitals and 20% to residential services like nursing homes. The remainder were given to nonprofit organizations, emergency medical services, local businesses, and family and friends who needed them.
“It’s rewarding to see a need in our communities being met by our Iowa 4-H family,” Berkland said. “As a part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, we work to engage Iowans in addressing the issues that affect them. We’re so pleased this project has provided an opportunity for Iowans of all ages to come together and help one another.”
Of the masks donated so far, approximately 35% were made and donated by 4-H members and 30% by 4-H volunteers. The remaining masks were donated and reported by 4-H alumni, staff and friends of 4-H — many of whom are relatives of 4-H members.
4-H members are encouraged to set goals as a part of their project area work. Helping the organization reach its ambitious goal of 10,000 face masks donated was an appealing goal for 4-H member Gabby McCoy, of the Carlisle Trail Blazers 4-H club in Warren County. “I’ve always loved sewing and helping others,” shared McCoy. “This project allowed me to combine the two, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. This project has helped me stay connected with my community and was a great distraction to help me cope with the stress of everything that’s going on.”
As the program expands and continues, funds from the JOANN “Raise Your Hand” 4-H partnership program are being used to support local efforts in providing materials for additional masks.
To learn more about this project or to record your face mask donations, please visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/iowa-4-h-creates-face-masks. For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, please contact your county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at www.extension.iastate.edu/4h.
Photo caption: Cooper Doland sews face masks for the Iowa 4-H challenge.