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Pope County 4-H'ers Welcome New Members into their Community

Excitement. Anticipation. Apprehension. Doubt. Hope.

Do you remember all the feelings that come with moving to a new home in a new community?
When new neighbors join a community, it’s important for them to feel welcomed and to know they belong. This belief is what led Isabella Ortendahl and her Lakeview 4-H Club to design and implement a "Welcome to the Community" service learning project for Pope County youth.  Pope County 4-H members assembled gift baskets filled with fun activities that families could do together. When new people moved into their community, a 4-H member would deliver them to the family as a way of saying "you are welcome here."

  "The primary goal of our project was to welcome new families with children into the community. We hoped they would feel welcomed and know some new kids before they started school," said Isabella. To achieve it, their 4-H club attended the local elementary and high school open houses in the Minnewaska Area School District and made sure every new family received a gift basket.

Lakeview 4-H did this project in 2015, and it was very successful. Since they did so well last year, they had a vote at a club meeting to do the project again. "We got together as many club members as possible to help buy the items, put them together, and give them away to new families coming into our community," said Donna Ortendahl, a key leader in the Lakeview 4-H Club, as well as Isabella’s mother.

When the open houses were over, they ended up not giving away as many baskets as they had hoped to, but still had many opportunities to meet new people in their community. "My favorite part about this project was giving the baskets away because I got to meet new people. The biggest challenge was getting a lot of people to participate," Isabella said.

Lakeview 4-H Club would like to do the project again next year, because it benefits the community and makes new families have less anxiety about their children starting at a new school.

Isabella and Donna agree that service learning projects like this are a major benefit to being involved in 4-H. It gives youth the opportunity to make new friends, gain knowledge, and become engaged leaders and communicators. It also directly helps the community and schools in the area. "Best of all, 4-H sets a great example for kids and adults to join us in serving our community. On top of that, it was fun!" Isabella concluded.

Each spring the Minnesota 4-H Foundation distributes grants to 4-H clubs who want to make a difference in their community. We feature one grantee every month to celebrate wonderful ways Minnesota 4-H'ers are living out the 4-H Pledge.

Did you know that service learning in 4-H happens because of the generosity of donors like you? What sort of impact could your support have on youth who want to make a difference? Your gift could empower Minnesota youth to change their world. They’re just waiting on you.

By Laura Wyatt
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
Student Worker

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