Written by Kaitlyn Bernarde
I’ve witnessed numerous acts of generosity from both youth and adults in Marathon County 4-H during my 6 months as a Marathon County 4-H Program Coordinator for UW-Extension. From decorating flower pots for area nursing home residents at camp, to making meals for the homeless — youth and adults are doing amazing things with and for their communities through their local 4-H clubs.
The 4-H program is founded on the concept of community service. It strives to connect adults and youth to their community by working together to make it a better place to live and to create a sense of belonging.
As the 4-H pledge goes:
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
Adults are 4-H volunteers because they are grateful for their knowledge and skills and want to pass them on to the next generation. Frequently, youth offer ideas for how they want to help in their communities, and the 4-H adults utilize their resources and relationships to then make those ideas a reality.
While Marathon County has several such 4-H leaders who exemplify this generous spirit, today I’d like to highlight two women who volunteer their time and talents as 4-H club leaders and department superintendents for the Wisconsin Valley Fair: Linda Standiford and Jacky Luetschwager.
Many thanks to them both!
Linda Standiford and her 4-H club, Rib Mountaineers, elect new club officers and then get to work planning their annual club calendar by taking ideas and suggestions from the youth in their club. They organize community service projects nearly every month, such as:
- Creating Memory Mats to donate to area nursing homes, including Mount View Care Center and the North Central Health Care — The mats are made from soft fleece and have different items attached to help recall a memory. One square is made of clear plastic where a family photo can be inserted.
- Participating in the Salvation Army’s Angel Giving Tree — The club picks two names from the tree on display at the Wausau Center mall — one boy and one girl. They try fulfilling the most-wanted gifts on the list and also include something fun or a craft. According to Linda:
“Christmas should always be magical for children.”
- Collecting and donating food to those in need — Members work with Rib Mountain IGA to pick up day-old bakery and produce that cannot be sold. Rather than throw the items away, they work together on weekends to distribute the food to individuals and families in need around the community. According to Linda:
“Our kids realize how very blessed they are not to go hungry. We love helping take a little pressure off . . . helps create less hunger in our community.”
Rib Mountaineers 4-H makes community service a priority. In addition to the projects named above, they annually collect pop tabs to donate to Shriners International. In 2018, they donated 80 pounds of tabs. The money raised buys wheelchairs and upgrades for youth in Shriners Hospitals for Children.
They also conduct highway clean-up, play Bingo at multiple nursing homes, and make greeting cards throughout the year for local residents.
If you ask her why she does it, she will tell you that she does it for the kids.
Linda’s work is unpaid — and often thankless — but it helps make youth and adults more aware of their community and its needs. Her leadership role teaches youth important life skills, such as responsibility, generosity, and leadership.
When Linda isn’t leading her 4-H club, she is busy babysitting her grandson and taking care of her family.
Jacky, the self-proclaimed “junk dealer,” coordinates estate sales and flea markets by day, and her local 4-H club by night. Her club, Popplewood 4-H, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Ringle Town Hall, conducts four to five community service projects annually, such as:
- Ringing bells for the Salvation Army
- Singing holiday carols
- Collecting teddy bears for the Ringle Fire Department
- Donating money if there is a fire in the Town of Ringle
- Playing Bingo at the Homme Nursing Home
In 2018, they continued to give back to others, but gained even more themselves in doing so.
For the past 3 years, Jacky has run Theme, an art shop that features a new theme each month, located on South 3rd Avenue in Wausau, next to the Catholic Charities Community Warming Center, which is open each winter. The Popplewood 4-H Club previously donated blankets to the neighboring shelter, but in 2018, the club wanted to do more. So . . .
- In February, club members researched the Warming Center’s needs and then collected items that homeless guests could eat throughout the day, including jerky donated by Country Fresh Meats, in Weston.
- In March, youth and adults gathered and made sandwiches and packed sack lunches to donate. Once completed, they went to the Warming Center in Wausau and handed out the lunches, hot water, bottled water, and hot chocolate. They donated the leftovers to the Warming Center to hand out to future guests.
The youth and adult 4-H participants were then given a tour of the facility and were informed of what others in the community around them were experiencing. This one simple service project inspired families in their club to then go out and help their community all on their own.
To Jacky, that is why community service is so important. She shared:
“We want the next generation to understand what community service is and why we do it . . . to not be selfish [and] realize their blessings and how to bless others.”
* * *
These are just two examples of the 4-H clubs and people helping others in Marathon County. We have 30 4-H clubs that give back through community projects like:
- Raking leaves
- Creating care packages
- Making holiday cards
- Cleaning up highways
These are just a few club activities, and we’re always looking for new ways to give back. So, if you have an idea for a community service project a 4-H club might wish to consider, please feel free to email me.
And for more information about joining Marathon County 4-H as a youth member or an adult volunteer, visit www.marathon.uwex.edu/4h or call 715-261-1230.
Upcoming 4-H Events
Everyone is invited to attend our “Cultivating Creativity: Pumpkin Planters” event in Antigo on November 14, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. Attendees will make living Thanksgiving centerpieces and learn about plants from Marathon County UWEX Horticulture Educator Brianna Wright.
Be sure to look for the Marathon County 4-H float in the Wausau Holiday Parade on November 30! The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. and travels from Marathon Park downtown to the 400 Block.
* * *
We’re surrounded by gracious and generous people — of all ages — who are looking to help make our community thrive! Linda Standiford and Jacky Luetschwager are just two. You needn’t look far to find many more givers in Marathon County — They’re all around. And for that, I’m very grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
4-H Program Coordinator | University of Wisconsin Extension–Cooperative Extension
Kaitlyn Bernarde is the Marathon County 4-H Program Coordinator for UW-Extension, where she has worked since April 2018. She is a graduate of Marathon High School, has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, divides her time between volunteer management and expanding access to 4-H programs. Her passion is strengthening Marathon County youth and adults via education, opportunities, and experiences. In her free time, you can find her exploring Wisconsin with her husband, consuming the news of the day, and trying a new cup of coffee with her family. Email Kaitlyn Bernarde.
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