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Volunteering is a gift we give ourselves

Monthly column from Minnesota 4-H director Dorothy McCargo Freeman

As 4-H volunteers, we often tell others about the many ways the program is good for youth. In fact, I regularly hear from volunteers that "4-H is the best place to grow up." I entirely agree.

But it's not just our youth who are positively impacted, is it? Take a step back and look at how your own life has been enhanced by the 4-H experience.

Volunteering shapes who we are.
For many of us, our identity is both rooted and grows out of how and where we volunteer. Think of the pride you have from working with and alongside young people. Whether weekly, monthly or during a particular event season, volunteering with 4-H gives you a deep sense of satisfaction. You know your work is making a difference. When you volunteer, you are expressing your beliefs in young people.

Laura Corgard is a long time volunteer in Blue Earth County. She grew up in 4-H and raised her children in the program as well. Because of 4-H, every member of her family has learned the value of community service. "It's important to give back and make a difference," said Laura. "When I volunteer with 4-H, that's what I'm doing."

Volunteering builds valuable and unexpected skills.
When we first agree to be a 4-H volunteer, it's generally with young people in mind. We want to share our passion and knowledge with the next generation. But quickly, we discover there are many things we ourselves will get to learn as part of the 4-H community.

Are you a club leader? I imagine you've built some financial management skills over the years. You've also likely learned how to share decision-making with folks who feel differently than you; especially young people.  These are just two of many skills we learn, even if we don't initially expect them. At every 4-H meeting and in every 4-H training, we adults gain skills to be more successful leaders and well-rounded community members.

Abby Schreier grew up in Crow Wing County 4-H and has stayed connected as a summer intern and local volunteer. As a child, she worked through shyness and fear to become a more confident and articulate speaker. As a volunteer, she continues to build these skills, using them in college as she prepares for a meaningful career.

Volunteering is a gift.
November is often a month we spend expressing gratitude for the many good things we have. I encourage you to add the gift of volunteering to your list. As 4-H volunteers, we're not just making a difference in the lives of young people. We are also making a difference in our own lives. As we build skills and express our values, volunteering is a gift we give ourselves.

Thank you for lending your skills to the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development Program. You are helping to grow more leaders in the youth of our state.  I know I am better because of my involvement and I hope you feel the same.

Dorothy McCargo Freeman
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