Community Pours Into Youth Program

— Written By Sarah Kocher and last updated by
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“Work smarter, not harder,” is a phrase that comes to mind as conversation about summer 4-H programs grows with the start of a new year; and conversation about community partnerships is growing too. These partnerships give life to areas of youth development that would otherwise not develop as successfully as they do.

What is the difference between partnering and supporting organizations? Partnering organizations have skin in the game, so to speak. They share responsibility for the success of a program. Time and resources are freely given for the sake of youth development and the fun, rewarding feeling that can follow.

Supporting organizations are fans of 4-H, which the county program and clubs need too, but supporting organizations do not have or feel as much ownership for what happens within 4-H.

When thinking of partnering organizations, United Way always comes to mind, because Caldwell County 4-H is a member agency of it. Second, it exemplifies the phrase “community partner.”

Yes, it pools resources to financially support organizations, but the people with United Way also go above and beyond, showing up to events to give hand-in-hand support and have helped plan some service activities with 4-H. The staff and the people in their circles care deeply about what opportunities youth are being offered and then experiencing.

Other groups, continuing to build relationships with 4-H and investing in local youth, include the Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteer Association of Caldwell County, Caldwell Agricultural Fair, Caldwell County Schools, and the county’s Community Emergency Response Team, also called “CERT,” among others.

Irv Kanode, volunteer with Caldwell County's Community Emergency Response Team, shows a 4-H member during a summer program how to correctly use a fire extinguisher.

Irv Kanode, volunteer with Caldwell County’s Community Emergency Response Team, shows a 4-H member during a summer program how to correctly use a fire extinguisher.

The groups partnering with Cooperative Extension and 4-H, including our 4-H Clubs, respond to the relationship saying it is mutually beneficial. Any Master Gardener℠ volunteer who has volunteered with 4-H’s Garden Club will tell you they feel good seeing a child having a ball learning about horticulture and digging in the garden beds at the community garden. Again, positive impacts on the community are being made through partnerships.

Other businesses, organizations, and individuals may be interested in creating similar impacts. So, how are these relationships initiated?

People connect with clubs. Clubs are groups of 4–H members and their families, who meet to conduct business meetings, participate in community service, come together to learn about one specific project area or many projects based on members’ interests, practice speaking/presenting to a group and socialize with others. The 4-H Club is the backbone of strong 4-H programs.

People approach Extension staff. Staff are available to see the bigger picture and understand where needs are located in the county program.

Parents of 4-H members or volunteers see a potential connection between their work or another organization they are involved in and 4-H.

Sometimes missions align and it just makes sense. When two groups are both trying to give youth hands-on learning experiences about particular topics, they hear about one another through mutual partners or volunteers.

For those involved in other community organizations, they should look to find similarities between what happens with 4-H partnerships and their own. The value of hard work is still high, but a strong partnership coupled with it can make a world of difference to all involved.