(12/18/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees is welcoming two new members — a longtime 4-H volunteer from Tensas Parish and the CEO of one of the state’s largest agricultural equipment companies.
Kristen VandeVen, a technology consultant from Newellton, joined the board in October, and Rob Richter, the president and CEO of Sunshine Quality Solutions Inc. from Baton Rouge, will join in January.
“They are willing, and they have a passion for 4-H — Louisiana 4-H in particular — and this is very important to the board,” said Ruby Miller, the chair of the 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees.
The 4-H Foundation board acts as fundraisers for several funds held within the LSU Foundation and as stewards for more than $4 million in endowments.
These funds augment 4-H youth development activities statewide, bolstering the financial health of the program while helping 4-H'ers take educational trips, participate in developmental programs and attend camps.
“When you know what 4-H does and you see their mission, and you see what they’re trying to do in the communities, it just aligns with us so well,” Richter said.
The mission of Louisiana 4-H aligns well with the goals of Sunshine Quality Solutions, a tractor and agricultural implement and machinery dealer with locations throughout south Louisiana. Sunshine Quality Solutions also collaborates with 4-H and Louisiana FFA for the Sunshine 4-H and FFA Leadership and Career Development Academy, an internship opportunity for students.
“These are kids that want to be out there linked to the land, and we want to match their passion with standing behind them and supporting them,” Richter said. “That means donating our time.”
Richter grew up on a farm in Ash Grove, Missouri. His family raised dairy cattle and eventually transitioned to beef cattle. He filled his days with sports and farm chores while growing up and never joined 4-H, but he always saw the benefits of the organization.
“Rob has a lot of insight into agricultural machinery and agriculture in general, and he can help to advise on the development of programs we provide for the future,” Miller said.
VandeVen grew up in Monterey, Louisiana, in Concordia Parish, and participated in 4-H from fourth grade through high school.
“It allowed me to see that there was a world outside of Concordia Parish, and I’m very grateful,” she said.
VandeVen learned that 4-H could help develop all young people, not only those who raised animals or won cooking contests. After graduating from the University of Louisiana Monroe and starting a career in electronic banking and information technology for Cross Keys Bank, VandeVen began volunteering for 4-H in Tensas Parish before her children could join.
“It didn’t matter where you were from,” she said. “They took you in, and you learned, and it gave you opportunities. Whenever I moved here, that’s why I started volunteering. And I was so excited when my children enjoyed it so much.”
VandeVen now serves as a technology consultant and the technology coordinator for Tensas Academy. Her experience will be valuable to 4-H as the organization continues to educate Louisiana youth in the science, engineering and technology sectors, Miller said.
Louisiana 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees members serve three-year terms. Founded in 1978, the foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
To learn more or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit the LSU 4-H Foundation webpage at https://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/kids_teens/contribute/foundation.
Kristen VandeVen, a technology consultant from Newellton, joined the Louisiana 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees in October. Provided photo
Rob Richter, the president and CEO of Sunshine Quality Solutions Inc. from Baton Rouge, will join the Louisiana 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees in January. Provided photo