Terril D. Faul, Coolman, Denise
Louisiana 4-H’ers are making a difference in peoples’ lives across the state – and around the country – during the holidays and all year long.
Teaching young people about how to serve their communities is one of the hallmarks of the 4-H youth development program, which is operated across Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Holidays provide a wealth of opportunities for service projects, but they aren’t the only times when 4-H’ers get involved.
One recent example came when a group of 4-H’ers from Livingston Parish sent donations to families in Alabama to help rebuild what Hurricane Ivan ripped apart.
Cynthia Knowlton, a regional 4-H agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, said it started with an e-mail from LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Christy Sorenson of Livingston Parish.
"They were already gathering donations and wanted to help some of our 4-H’ers and their families," Knowlton said.
Two weeks after making contact, Sorenson and her father, Wesley Sorenson, president of the Louisiana 4-H State Volunteer Leader Association, delivered two carloads of supplies. The supplies were given to two families who had lost almost everything because of the hurricane.
"They brought everything from school uniforms and supplies to canned food, propane fuel and care packages," Knowlton said. "The gifts just overwhelmed the two families who received them."
Louisiana 4-H’ers also bring good tidings to those in need during the holidays.
Each year Caddo Parish 4-H Junior Leader Club members bring Christmas cheer to residents living in the Eden Gardens Nursing Home. The youngsters take the nursing home residents on a Christmas shopping spree, of sorts.
"Our junior leaders collect items such as socks, wallets, hair brushes and comb sets, bubble bath and lotion, and other small gift items suitable for senior citizens," said Lola Boone, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Caddo Parish. "These items, as well as gift- wrapping supplies, are donated to the ‘Santa Shoppe.’
"Then, on a Saturday morning, just before Christmas, we all gather together, set our items on display, and give the residents play money to shop with. The junior leaders assist the residents with their Christmas shopping adventure."
After the residents have picked out and paid for their gifts with the play money, Boone said they can have their gifts wrapped by the 4-H’ers.
"The residents can then give the gifts to family members or friends," Boone said. "Last year (2003), Santa made his appearance early so the residents could take photos with him. We also sang Christmas carols. This is something our junior leaders look forward to each year."
In another example from across the state, 4-H junior leaders in Washington Parish participate in the Franklinton "Festival of Trees."
Abby Gautreaux, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Washington Parish, said the festival is an annual fund-raising event that raises money for to help pay operating expenses for the town’s museum.
"Each group that participates receives a tree and two strands of lights," Gautreaux said. "The group is responsible for coming up with a theme, a title and ornaments. The trees are judged and later auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Varnado Store Museum."
In 2003, the theme for the tree designed by the Washington Parish 4-H Junior Leader Club members was "A Louisiana Cajun Christmas." The ornaments consisted of red beans and rice balls, Tabasco sauce, Community Coffee, magnolias and crawfish.
"Under the tree, we placed authentic Louisiana products such as cane syrup and Zatarain’s products," Gautreaux said. "Our tree received first place in the youth category and won best of show. It was auctioned off for $300."
Those are just some of the activities. For instance, 4-H’ers from all over Louisiana helped make Christmas brighter for residents staying at the Providence House in Shreveport.
Karen Martin, an LSU AgCenter regional 4-H coordinator, said ornaments were collected during the state 4-H convention held in Natchitoches earlier this year. LSU AgCenter agents from northwestern and north central Louisiana brought the ornaments to the Providence House and decorated a tree inside the house and the outside of the house. A total of 28 families live at Providence House, a residential development center for homeless families with children.
"This activity made us all appreciate what we have a little more," Martin said.
Farmerville Junior High School 4-H’ers also have been helping others. Recently, they collected boxes of sugar and oil and brought them to the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe. Carol Remy, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Union Parish, said the activity taught the 4-H’ers a lot about the importance of community service work.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant university system and is operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. The program teaches useful life skills to young people by involving them in a variety of projects and activities – ranging from community service projects to studies in areas such as citizenship and civic education, communications and expressive arts, consumer and family sciences, environmental education and earth science, healthy lifestyles, personal development and leadership, plants and animals and science and technology.
Terril Faul, the LSU AgCenter department head of 4-H and Youth Development, said one of the key components of the 4-H program is teaching young people how to be better citizens.
"A 4-H club is a group of young people who want to use their heads, hearts, hands and health to become the best they can be and to make a difference in the world," Faul said, referring to the four Hs in 4-H. "‘Learn by doing’ is the 4-H club slogan, and 4-H members don’t just read about things; they do them."
To find out more about Louisiana 4-H, go to www.lsuagcenter.com and click on the 4-H clover for Louisiana 4-H Online.