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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Volunteering is a gift. Who will you share it with?

11,000 caring adults volunteered with Minnesota 4-H last year. If you are one of those generous community members, thank you. Your time, enthusiasm and commitment empowered 69,000 young people with the skills they need to lead for a lifetime.

But there are so many more young people who need 4-H. In fact, census data indicate that up to 350,000 Minnesota youth don't yet have access to meaningful, hands-on, enrichment activities. They are waiting for us!

Encouraging parents to learn with their kids
Brad and Teresa Schmidt are long-time 4-H Shooting Sports & Wildlife volunteers in Douglas County. Their strategy for encouraging and engaging parents has grown the program from 2 to 13 screened and enthusiastic volunteers.

"After I mingle with parents for a while, I'll sneak in a homework assignment that gets them involved with their kids," explained Brad. "As parents learn, they want to participate more. Building confidence in parents is important to moving them toward volunteering."

Brad and Teresa’s persistence and intentionality with volunteers has helped grow a program that serves more than 100 youth each year. Parents and other caring adults are working together to ensure youth throughout Douglas County, and surrounding communities too, can learn firearm safety, develop skills, and build respect for nature.

Building excitement, building volunteers
Another 4-H volunteer who loves enlisting new volunteers is Dan Landherr from Chisago County. He is an electrical engineer with Boston Scientific who has spent the last 7 years building STEM experiences for youth of all ages. Dan's goal is to make the programs he starts sustainable even after he steps away.

"We have about 50 youth in our 4-H robotics program. We’ve added a FIRST Tech Challenge team for 8th-12th graders and FIRST LEGO League Junior teams for the youngest kids,” said Dan with clear pride in his voice. "Some parents have gotten so excited about what the kids are doing that they’ve stepped up as volunteers.”

Dan also empowers older 4-H youth to serve as volunteers. “I find as many ways as I can to have older youth with some experience teach skills to younger kids. This is a less intimidating way of starting to volunteer and it helps solidify knowledge in the youth. Everybody wins!”

Share the gift of volunteering with others
Volunteering with 4-H truly is a gift. It keeps us young, connects us with our community, and ensures youth learn the skills we know they need for success.

If you, like Dan, Teresa and Brad, love being a 4-H volunteer, I encourage you to share that pleasure with others. Who might join us to ensure more youth can build the skills they need to lead for lifetime?

With gratitude,

Dorothy McCargo Freeman
State 4-H director


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