4-H hits 100, seeks new members
Kansas 4-H is 100 years old, and clubs throughout the state will celebrate throughout the 4-H year that begins on Saturday, Oct. 1, and goes through Sept. 30, 2006.
Beth Hecht, Leavenworth County extension agent for 4-H youth development, said county clubs would commemorate the centennial starting Sunday, the beginning of National 4-H Week. One focus this year is to show 4-H pride but display what the group is about and how it can relate to kids today.
The clubs will kick off a "Building Our Community - One Piece at a Time" campaign next week that ties in with National Lights On After School Day, Oct. 20. Hecht said Kansas State Research and Extension Office, 500 Eisenhower Road, Suite 103, would sell blank puzzle pieces for $1 or a bag of pieces for $10; buyers are to draw an after-school activity on the piece and return it to the extension office by Oct. 14. Puzzle pieces will be put together and be displayed at to-be-determined public locations, Hecht said. Proceeds will benefit local 4-H after-school programs. Hecht said other organizations also were selling puzzle pieces to raise awareness of the need for after-school activities.
4-H is involved in the after-school program awareness day because there is a movement "to take 4-H to where the kids are," Hecht said.
Many groups, such as Boling and Friendship Valley clubs, meet in the evening once a month. That model doesn't work for many families nowadays, she said. To meet different needs, Hecht said Leavenworth County now had a 4-H group that meets once a week after school at Earl M. Lawson Elementary in Leavenworth.
"We're trying to reach the kids who don't have the mom, dad, 2.5 kids and a little dog," she said.
"We've gotta change. The society changes, and we've got to keep up."
The purpose of 4-H - teaching leadership, citizenship and life skills - is the same as it was 100 years ago, Hecht said.
"The core reason of why 4-H does what it does hasn't changed. That's what we hang our hat on," she said. "How you teach is what changes."
4-H has proved it's adaptable in the past 100 years - there are now more than 600 4-H'ers in Leavenworth County, Hecht said. Instead of the group's original projects such as canning, children can now participate livestock projects, shooting sports, photography, entomology or sewing projects, to name a few.
4-H clubs are open to children ages 7-19. Five- and 6-year-olds can participate in 4-H Cloverbuds programs. Hecht said the beginning of the 4-H year is the best time for new members and volunteers to become involved. Children who get involved now have plenty of time to work on projects for next year's county fair, she said.
Club membership is not confined to a geographic area, Hecht said, so children who want to join a club can go anywhere in the county. She said she recommends groups based on what school the children go to, where the family lives and sometimes on what projects the children are interested in. Hecht encouraged families to shop around when looking for a club.
"Go visit. Spectate. See who's there and where your kid's most comfortable," she said.