By Starrla Cray
With hands-on, practical learning in a creative, encouraging atmosphere, 4-H is a youth development organization that’s worth celebrating.
Three Delano area 4-H groups the Willing Workers, the Mighty Crow, and the Franklin Friends are among the thousands of clubs to remember national 4-H week, Oct. 3-9.
The Willing Workers, which began more than 80 years ago, is the oldest club in the community. Leaders Mark Otto and Colleen Klaers have fond memories of club activities when they were growing up, and they enjoy carrying on the tradition with today’s youth.
“People who aren’t in 4-H might think that it’s only about animals and living in the country,” Otto said. “Really, it’s about citizenship and life skills, about accepting differences, and goal-setting. They’re all marketable life skills that help you become a better person.”
Community service is an integral part of the club’s activities.
“We care about the people and the environment in our community,” Otto said
The youth spend time at Crow River Villa retirement homes, doing everything from washing windows and tending outdoor plants to spending time with the residents during holidays.
The group also serves through Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit Christian organization that provides nourishment for children around the world.
“We also do a ditch cleanup,” Otto said. The Willing Workers make the job fun by having a contest to see who can find the most interesting piece of garbage.
“We find that community service develops a sense of belonging in the members,” Otto said. “It builds camaraderie and gives them common experiences they can laugh about.”
The Willing Workers started with 12 members in 1929, including Klaers’ father and aunt.
In the late 1960s, the club had grown to about 90 members.
“Because our club got so big, they decided they would go form their own clubs,” Otto said. As a result, the Mighty Crow and the Franklin Friends were developed.
“Every club has a different feel,” Otto said.
Willing Workers is one of the larger 4-H clubs, with about 35 members, while the Mighty Crow 4-H Club has nine members, including Emily Durben, Jake Ewing, Amanda Lyrek, Hunter Mann, Cameron McNeilly, Casey Schmidt, Amanda Swanson, Sam Thomas, and Jena Vander Broek.
“I think we’re a very welcoming small group,” leader Marie Thomas said. The club represents a variety of ages and interests.
Projects include everything from rocket and Lego building to food preparation and scrapbooking. After the Wright County Fair, members give a short demonstration in front of the group.
“Part of 4-H is getting comfortable with speaking in front of people,” Thomas said.
Franklin Friends 4-H Club also participates in exciting projects.
“In our club, we have many active leaders at the county level,” leader Carol Reinhart said. “Animal projects are our strongest interest, but we also encourage general exhibits like cooking, wood working, and needle work.”
Members of the Franklin Friends enjoy bowling, rollerskating, swimming, and ceramic painting. Each year, they also try to plan social events like skiing or a trip to Valleyfair.
The Franklin Friends also participate in “Share the Fun,” a three- to five-minute skit that’s performed in front of other 4-H groups.
Each 4-H group makes an effort to make the community a better place to live.
“The big thing we like to do is adopt senior citizens from Golden LivingCenter,” Thomas said. “They give us names of seniors who don’t have a lot of family support.”
For fundraising, the Mighty Crow 4-H Club bags groceries at Cub Foods in Buffalo. The money they earn is then used to help buy practical and fun Christmas presents for each adopted senior citizen.
The group also visits Golden LivingCenter on other occasions, to decorate cookies, play bingo, sing songs, and spend time talking with the residents.
4-H groups offer many opportunities to spend time with people of all ages. Some of them have Cloverbud participants (ages 7-9) as well as college-aged members.
“It puts things into perspective for teenagers,” Otto said. “There are kids who rely on them and look up to them.”
Otto’s three sons are actively involved in 4-H, and his 5-year-old daughter also enjoys participating when she can. The children have developed skills in shooting sports, pigeon racing, sewing, raising animals, and more.
“We tell our kids they’ve got to stick with a project for a couple years to know if it’s something they’ll like and be able to master,” Otto said.
Want to find our more about Delano’s 4-H clubs?
• Mighty Crow 4-H Club: Marie Thomas at (952) 297-2563.
• Franklin Friends: Carol Reinhart at (763) 682-4207 or Emma Hanson at (952) 955-3924.
• Willing Workers: Mark Otto (763) 972-3546 or Colleen Klaers at (763) 479-4393.
Each of the three Delano 4-H clubs has a monthly meeting:
• Mighty Crow 4-H Club meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Delano Heritage Center.
• Franklin Friends meets the second Thursday of each month at the Denzel Hickman residence.
• Willing Workers meets the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Delano Community Education cafeteria.
Wright Co. 4-H
There are more than 550 members and 24 clubs for 4-H throughout Wright County, according to program coordinator Nick Neaton.
Members participate in community service, crafts, animal science, food and nutrition, computers, and many other projects.
4-H is open to all youth in grades k-13.
To learn more about 4-H in Wright County, contact the Wright County Extension Office at (763) 682-7394 or 800-362-3667.