United Way Agency Spotlight: Jasper County 4-H

We value a culture of giving and encourage our employees to Do Some Good. Throughout the course of our Corporate campaign, we’ll be spotlighting several of the incredible agencies that United Way serves in our local community. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Jasper County 4-H 

At the beginning of every meeting and event, 4-H members make a pledge to the American Flag and the 4-H flag. They repeat in unison, “I pledge my HEAD to clearer thinking, my HEART to greater loyalty, my HANDS to larger service, and my HEALTH to better living  for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

This promise clearly encompasses what 4‑H aims to do. Through their clubs, kids and teens complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and civic engagement in a positive environment — where they receive guidance from volunteer adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. Jasper County’s program has several active clubs in the area, which are delivered by the University of Missouri Extension.

Pictured above are five of the eight 4-H members who served on the livestock judging teams this year. These kids completed this state contest virtually. Jasper County 4-H’s junior team placed 5th in the State and the senior team placed 6th — both within their respective divisions.

With projects on more than 75 topics, 4-H has something to interest every child. Some of those learning opportunities include: geocaching, robotics, international exchanges, horsemanship, pets, starting a business, arts and crafts, raising animals, woodworking, photography and gardening. Many clubs have also taken on critical societal issues, such as addressing community health inequities, engaging in civil discourse and advocating for equity and inclusion for all.

The program emphasizes equal opportunities for kids who may be underserved as well. “We want to ensure that all the children in our program develop a partnership with an adult who can mentor them,” says Sarah Townley, 4-H Youth Program Associate. “The influence of a positive adult role model can really benefit a child throughout their entire life.”

Last December, Jasper County 4-H Teen Council rang the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Donation Drive.

As with many other local non-profit organizations, the issues presented by the pandemic have been a challenge. However, staff and volunteers of 4-H have worked diligently to continue presenting engaging learning opportunities for their participants. While they were unable to meet in person, many clubs provided virtual options, and leaders adjusted the requirements for specific achievements. The children were even able to compete in a closed-door Jasper County Youth Fair, where they were able to safely compete in livestock shows. Other projects were judged remotely. While somewhat altered, these changes provided goals, normalcy, and community to many kids, during a difficult time.

The Jasper County Youth Fair is normally the largest fundraiser for Jasper County 4-H, so these changes have brought financial hardship as well. They are extremely grateful for the consistent support they receive from the United Way, as it enables them to continue the work they do with youth in our community.

“United Way allows our kids to go and do things they have never been able to before,” says Sarah. “Those dollars are often used to cover registration fees and expenses for the kids to attend state and national contests, summer camps, and leadership conferences. We really want to provide opportunities for all the kids we serve.”

In February (pre-Covid), the local Senior Meats Judging team competed at the Missouri State 4-H meat judging contest — and took First Place!