Cooperative Extension praises 4-H leaders during National Volunteer Week

Posted 16 April 2022 at 5:13 pm

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

Provided photo: Zack Welker, a 4-H club leader and Orleans CCE volunteer, participates in the ice cream eating contest at the 2021 4-H Fair.

KNOWLESVILLE – Volunteers are invaluable to the Orleans County 4-H Program.

“We would not be able to provide programming to local youth without our dedicated and talented volunteers,” said Kristina Gabalski, Orleans County 4-H Program Coordinator.

Orleans Cornell Cooperative Extension is celebrating its volunteers during National Volunteer Week, April 17-23.

4-H volunteers are involved in a wide variety of tasks, Gabalski said.

“Some come one day a year to help evaluate youth at events such as Public Presentations or Produced in New York,” she said. “Others are club leaders who are involved in programming all year-round. Others are highly involved in helping with the 4-H Fair. The time commitment varies, but volunteers share their talents and interests with the next generation.”

Zack Welker of Medina began volunteering with Orleans CCE in 2015 as leader of the 4-H Beef and Dairy Club. He has also served on the Animal Welfare and Fair Committees and is the current president of the Extension Board of Directors. Zack grew up in 4-H and said the program opened many doors for him during his youth.

“Being a 4-H leader allows me to help shape and give back to the next generation in the same way that my leaders did for me,” he said.

Floyd Young co-leads the Outback Orleans Outdoors 4-H Club with Dale Frasier. Both are from Kent and both have children enrolled in the Orleans County 4-H Program. The club needed new leaders back in 2020 and Floyd and Dale stepped forward about when Covid hit.

“The club focuses on shooting sports, outdoor activities and survival skills and the new leaders needed NYS 4-H Shooting Sports training before the club could be fully active again,” Gabalski said. “After more than a year of waiting during the Covid pause, they were able to complete the training in June of 2021. The club can continue because of their expertise and perseverance.”

“I am blessed to have this opportunity,” Young explained.  “I wish that when I was at these kids’ age, I would have had the knowledge and instruction they are getting.”

He said the youth in the club help drive the focus of the group.

“The youth do the activities they choose and are able to learn the skills they want and will take into their future,” Young said. “Being outdoors is something kids are not getting enough of these days. 4-H helps them to be more active outdoors than indoors. It’s also nice to see parents interact with their kids, the parents learn, too.”

Young and Welker are among the newer group of 4-H leaders/volunteers in Orleans, but the program has many volunteers who have served for decades – Pauline Lanning, one of the longest serving volunteers, has been helping the program for 55 years. Others are 4-H alumni.

“We were 4-Hers, our kids were 4-Hers and now our grandchildren are 4-Hers,” said Robyn Watts of Medina.

She has been involved in volunteering and leading clubs as well as serving on the Family and Consumer Science Program Development Committee (FCSPDC) for more than 40 years.

“The support and information is fabulous through Cooperative Extension,” she noted. “You know where to go for help. The parents are great, they stay during meetings to help.”

Joyce Chizick of Lyndonville has also served as a volunteer, club leader and FCSPDC member for more than four decades. She said the 4-H program offers many opportunities to youth.

“4-H is on the forefront of important issues like going green and organic gardening,” Chizick said.

She remembers the many trips offered by Orleans County 4-H which opened many new places and experiences for youth.

“The trips brought people together and gave them exposure to different ways of living,” Chizick said. “They got to see plays in New York City and see that there is something else out there.  Many 4-Hers had not been out of Orleans County or even to Buffalo.”

Helping to provide experiences for youth such as award trips, teaching them life skills and guiding them as they pursue their interests has kept these 4-H volunteers coming back year after year.

Louise Henderson of Barre has volunteered for more than 40 years in the Orleans County 4-H program. She now has great-grandchildren in the program and says she appreciates the fact that 4-H youth get lots of experience in hands-on actual reality.

“It’s the importance of learning by doing,” she said.

Henderson’s daughter, Alice Mathes, leads the Adventurers 4-H Club with her mother. Both are members of the FCSPD committee. Alice says 4-Hers have the skills and knowledge to deal with anything.  She remembers traveling in an Extension van to a state 4-H Dairy event in the days when there were no cell phones.

“The van got a flat tire, and the 4-Hers who were with me were able to help,” she recalled.

Mathes added that her granddaughter can cook and sew.

“She has learned many valuable skills in 4-H,” Mathes said. “Her teachers are blown away.”