9:39 a.m., Jan. 28, 2010----“I was carried in a peach basket to the Delaware State Fair,” Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said, recalling a childhood memory as he addressed a statewide gathering of 4-H volunteers during a forum Saturday, Jan. 23, in Felton. “That was my first exposure to 4-H.”
Biden spent the greater part of morning meeting with Delaware's 4-H community, hearing their stories, and joining in the 4-H fellowship with an informal breakfast that began a day of workshops and experiential education.
Nearly 140 Delaware 4-H adult volunteers, junior leaders and staff continued a long tradition of honing their volunteer skills by attending the annual Delaware 4-H Leader Forum, held at Lake Forest High School, in Felton. The forum was sponsored by Monsanto, a strong supporter of 4-H volunteer training.
Biden's appearance launched the annual leadership training event that is designed to enhance, educate and encourage adult 4-H volunteers in what is the nation's largest youth development program in the country.
Later in opening remarks, Biden reflected on the on the “Head, Heart, Hands and Health” that comprise the meaning of 4-H. Biden lauded the attendees for their dedication and positive impact on the lives Delaware youth. “You are here to make sure that we have the next generation of leaders in the most important industry here in Delaware -- agriculture,” Biden said.
The daylong event, which offers curriculum-based seminars, fellowship and creative interaction, has long been a highlight in the Delaware 4-H volunteer's calendar. New and established leaders chose from a menu of more than 20 topics including: first aid/CPR; the amazing horseshoe crab; internet safety and social networking; woodworking; science, engineering and technology; community service; digital photography; theater arts; equine welfare; and healthy eating and lifestyles.
Armed with new information, these enthusiastic 4-H volunteers will share their talents and new knowledge with teen leaders and youth ages 5-19 in neighborhood clubs, afterschool programs, classrooms and summer camps.
Ernesto López, University of Delaware 4-H extension specialist and volunteer coordinator, said he was pleased with the record turnout and new faces that signed up to volunteer. "The 2010 Delaware 4-H Volunteer Leader Forum turned out to be such a rich and meaningful event for a group of people who really deserved the recognition. Our volunteers do such a wonderful job with our youth day in and day out and make all of us who work at Delaware State University and the University of Delaware so proud and thankful. 4-H continues to be the premier youth development program in Delaware due to their hard work. Saying thanks is the least we can do,” López said.
In addition to continuing volunteer education, the forum provides a venue to recognize achievements in volunteer service. The Salute to Excellence Award, created by National 4-H Council and sponsored by Monsanto, is awarded to two individuals from each county in the following categories: Volunteer of the Year, for service 10 years and under, and the Lifetime Volunteer Award, for more than 10 years of service. This year's winners included:
New Castle: Volunteer of the Year, Karen Johnston, and Lifetime Volunteer, Mary Borecki.
Kent: Volunteer of the Year, Joelle Vincent, and Lifetime Volunteer, Robert Messick.
Sussex: Volunteer of the Year, Gail Tipton, and Lifetime Volunteer, Charlotte Passwaters.
Delaware State University: Volunteer of the Year, Kimberly Franklin.
From this pool of excellence, Delaware 4-H announced the selection of Robert Messick as Lifetime Volunteer and Gail Tipton as Volunteer of the Year to represent Delaware and be considered for the National 4-H Salute to Excellence awards that will be announced at a later date.
4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills under the guidance of caring adults. As part of the Delaware Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H is supported by the University of Delaware and Delaware State University in all three counties.
Delaware 4-H currently has 3,300 adults and teen who serve as active volunteers. Through their efforts, Delaware 4-H youth program has impacted nearly 64,000 youth through traditional club settings, in school enrichment, summer camps and afterschool programming.
For more information about Delaware 4-H, visit the Web site. New 4-H volunteers are always welcome. For more information about becoming a 4-H volunteer leader, contact Ernesto López at (302) 856-2585, ext 561.
Article and photos by Michele Walfred