By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Being involved in 4-H can provide youth with a wide range of activities that can ultimately build friendships, self-confidence, and knowledge.
It’s National 4-H Week, a great time to recognize the local clubs and their leaders for their hard work and service to their community throughout the year.
By being involved in 4-H, members learn leadership, citizenship, and life skills through hands-on projects in science, foods and nutrition, healthy living, citizenship, and many others. Topics are as varied as rocketry, arts and crafts, public speaking, photography, nutrition, and community service.
The 4-H organization helps the community’s young people reach their full potential, said Darcy Cole, 4-H program coordinator, University of Minnesota Extension based out Meeker County.
Cole also noted that recent studies show youth who participate in 4-H do better in school, are more motivated to help others, feel safe to try new things, achieve a sense of self-esteem, and develop lasting friendships.
It is also one of the largest youth development organizations in America with more than 6.5 million young people ages 5-19, 538,000 volunteers, 3,500 staff, and 60 million alumni.
In the Dassel and Cokato areas, there are two active 4-H clubs; Dassel Lamplighters and Knapp Busy Bees.
Marcia Dischinger has been the key leader of the Dassel Lamplighters for five years and has been a 4-H mom for 18 years. Growing up, she was also in 4-H herself and can attest that members will get out of it what they put into it.
“They can learn so much and grow in self-confidence,” Dischinger said, adding it’s also a place where friendships grow.
The Dassel Lamplighters 4-H Club currently has 25 members ranging from ages 6-18, and new members are welcome to join anytime.
The Dassel Lamplighters are celebrating 4-H week by promoting their club in a window display at Anne’s occasional store on Third Street.
Members will also be talking about 4-H to Dassel Elementary third graders this week.
With community service a large part of the club’s obligations, the Dassel Lamplighters have done a number of activities this past year.
Last December, the club collected toys and other items for Cokato Lions Club’s Silent Santa toy drive.
The club’s December meeting took place at Lakeview Ranch, the dementia care facility in Darwin, where the members made Christmas cards and ornaments with the residents. They also brought them Christmas cookies.
In March, the club also donated food to the Dassel Area Food Shelf. As a way of making collecting food more exciting, the club had a friendly competition among the members to see who could bring in the most items.
In June, members hosted the club meeting, again at Lakeview Ranch, where they had a barbecue on the patio and brought flowers to plant in the pots and raised beds around the facility.
Every year during the Meeker County Fair, members volunteer at the 4-H food stand. This is the main fundraiser for the clubs county-wide.
Also at the fair, 4-H members can enter projects in a number of areas, including animals. Members who receive high honors at the county level, then go on to compete at the state fair.
The Dassel Lamplighters holds its regular monthly meetings on the first Sunday of each month at the Dassel Covenant Church (lower level) at 6:30 p.m.
The current 2010-11 Dassel Lamplighters 4-H club officers are: Lucas Salfer, president; Brooke Woetzel, vice president; Louis Olson, secretary; Nathan Weckwerth, treasurer; and Hannah Salfer, reporter.
For more information on joining, contact Marcia Dischinger at (320) 275-2017.
Knapp Busy Bees
The Knapp Busy Bees 4-H group meets the first Tuesday of the month at the Cokato Township Hall.
Recently, the club has seen a decline in membership, mainly due to members graduating and going off to college.
There is also a common misconception about 4-H.
“One of our stumbling blocks is people think you have to live on a farm to join 4-H,” said Wright County 4-H Program Coordinator Nick Neaton.
“The vast majority of our kids don’t live on a farm,” Neaton said, who will be visiting the third graders at Cokato Elementary Tuesday, Oct. 4. Neaton will share the many opportunities for kids that go beyond agriculture.
“It’s all-around youth development,” Neaton said, as well as a family activity.
It’s also a low-cost program, costing $8.50 in annual dues.
Also, one can join any club no matter what county he or she may live in.
Those interested may call Knapp Busy Bees key leader Monica Tenhoff at (320) 286-2516, or Neaton at the Wright County Extension Office at (763) 682-7394.
Fright Night at the Wright Co. Fairgrounds
This year, Wright County 4-H is hosting Fright Night Saturday, Oct. 29 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Wright County Fairgrounds.
This is open to the public and includes a haunted house, costume contest, treats, and games.
Admission is free, though attendees are asked to bring a food shelf item and a bag of candy.