By David Perry/Whitley County Extension Agent for 4-H & Youth
Many people do not realize that the success of an organization such as 4-H is based on the volunteer support from the community.
In the Whitley County 4-H program, volunteers range from the classroom teacher that serves as a club leader to the parents of the youth themselves, to behind-the-scenes persons such as school secretaries, community leaders, 4-H advisory council members, and several obvious ones such as camp counselors, project group leaders, and event judges.
The Whitley County 4-H program is very fortunate to have nearly 200 volunteers that serve in these various capacities.
The University of Kentucky 4-H Program offers many training and support resources for volunteers in the county itself and statewide. One of the more popular training events is the Kentucky 4-H Volunteer Leader Forum held in Lexington. This two-day event offers nearly 100 workshops in all 4-H program areas. The event is also highlighted by leader recognition awards for service in various aspects of the county, state, and national 4-H programs. Whitley County has had many leaders and programs recognized at this event with the most recent recognition going to Tom Stephens for the Innovative; Creative; and Enthusiastic (ICE) award for his work with the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) project he has led for several years at 4-H camp and for afterschool programs.
The Whitley County 4-H Council was also recognized for it efforts with the annual telephone book recycling program with the state Community Service Award.
Although not recognized at the 4-H leader forum, Patti Mullins was recognized in February at the Whitley County 4-H council meeting for her years of service as council treasurer. Mullins had served in this position for nearly eight years before stepping down this past year. Other programs that have had volunteers involved that included certification training have been the 4-H Horse program, which is being revived, the shooting sports program, which will be kicking off again in the upcoming fall, and the livestock program. These three programs require a weekend certification/training due to the in-depth material content and safety requirements. Another program of similar nature is the Master Clothing Volunteer program that trains leaders to work with county sewing projects.
Another important aspect of the Whitley County 4-H program is the county 4-H advisory council. This group of volunteers consisting of teachers, community leaders, business leaders, parents, and teens help direct the county programs to meet the needs and interest of the youth in Whitley County. The 4-H council meets quarterly on the third Tuesday in February, May, August, and November.
The county 4-H council helps plan, carry out, and evaluate 4-H events and activities. This also includes fundraising events. Training for this county leadership role is also provided in the county.
An important aspect of volunteers becoming involved with the county 4-H program is participation in the Youth Risk/Protection Management Program conducted by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. This is a multi step process that volunteers go thru to be accepted to work with youth in the Kentucky 4-H program. This includes an application; background check; reference check; and an interview with a select screening committee consisting of law enforcement officers; social workers; and current 4-H leaders. All of this is to secure the safety of the youth involved in the 4-H program.
For more information on how you can be a part of the largest youth organization in America and Whitley County, contact the Whitley County Extension office at 549-1430.