Greg Owen

Greg Owen

The last year has been a challenging one for everyone. Despite these challenges, the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program continued to provide safe programs for club members, thanks in part to the strong leadership of 4-H volunteer leaders.

Karla Knoepfli, Oklahoma State University Extension state volunteer specialist in the State 4-H Office, said the COVID-19 pandemic did not deter the dedicated volunteer base to provide fun and educational experiences for 4-H’ers while following OSU and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines.

“One thing we’ve learned through this challenging year is that 4-H is needed now more than ever. 4-H is important to our communities because it is a means to safely meet the social, emotional and physical needs of families through local clubs,” Knoepfli said. “4-H clubs and volunteers are essential in providing a welcoming environment of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery no matter the delivery method.”

The State 4-H Volunteer Board remains committed to helping volunteers stay engaged with club members and families through a couple of avenues, including Tuesday Tool-Time and the State 4-H Parent-Volunteer Conference. The first of four Tuesday Tool Time webinars will take place via Zoom on April 20. The volunteer conference is slated June 26 on the OSU campus.

The state conference will offer 14 workshop options, on campus, as part of the hybrid event. Programming will not be recorded for viewing later. The state volunteer board would love to have everyone in person on the Stillwater campus, but we understand some may still be uncomfortable with in-person events so there will be a limited virtual registration option. Only designated workshops will be available on June 26 via Zoom as part of the virtual package.

Parents and volunteers are encouraged to take advantage of the $40 early bird registration April 1 through May 1. May 2 through May 26 the registration fee is $50. Registration includes the Salute to Excellence Luncheon. Virtual registration will be $20 April 1 through May 26.

Barbara Pemberton, state volunteer board president, said it is important for volunteers to come together to share ideas and gain new information and techniques.

“Volunteers are vital to the 4-H program. The program couldn’t exist without volunteers,” Pemberton said. “Volunteers serve as club leaders, but also serve as project leaders, helping with projects, transportation, serve as sponsors and judges and work in the concession stands at fairs, stock shows and other events. 4-H offers so many ways to volunteer.”

A highlight every year of the Parent-Volunteer Conference is the announcement of the county, district and state Salute to Excellence Awards for those who were nominated for the Volunteer of the Year and the Lifetime Volunteer of the Year. The 2021 nominees have dedicated a total of 162 years serving as a 4-H volunteer.

“Volunteering is more than a simple act. It’s an attitude and the honorable practice of concern and happiness for others,” Knoepfli said. “4-H is an organization committed to actively engaging families, youth and volunteers in their communities through club activities. Clubs provide a healthy social and educational environment for developing the life skills of character, self-responsibility, concern for others, resiliency and community service through the act of volunteering.”

With April being National Volunteer Month, it is a great time to look at the various ways in which people can be involved in a volunteer capacity with the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program.

“I’d like to encourage clubs to use April as a time to reflect and develop a plan for the new program year. Think about the first impression your club gives to new families,” Knoepfli said. “What ways could the club be actively recruiting new families and volunteers? How could the club creatively be engaging families and volunteers meeting the social, emotional and physical needs of families as we continue to recover from the Pandemic? How is ‘my’ club continuing to ‘Make the best better in my club, my community, my country and my world?’”

For more information about this and other 4-H events and activities please give us a call at the office at 423-4120 or email me at greg.owen@okstate.edu.

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