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Celebrate volunteers in April

Celebrate volunteers in April

By: Amanda Sestak

Okfuskee County Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Dev.

The Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program is well-known for teaching youth life skills. Through hands-on, experiential learning, club members learn how to manage their time, learn responsibility and develop communication skills. Something else they learn starting at the Cloverbud level is the value of volunteering.

From the beginning of anyone’s 4-H career, learning the 4-H Pledge is paramount. In that pledge, they recite the line “I pledge my hands to larger service.” Through their involvement, club members learn their hands are trained to be useful, helpful and skillful.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Month in April, take time to reflect on what volunteering means to Oklahoma 4-H, said Karla Knoepfli, Oklahoma State University Extension state volunteer specialist in the state 4-H office.

“First, we are thankful for the thousands of adults who believe in the Oklahoma 4-H program and share their personal time, as well as their talents and resources,” Knoepfli said.

The 4-H Life-skills Model “Community Service/Volunteering” is defined as donating one’s time and/or resources of one’s own free will for the benefit of the group without guarantee.

“Both adult and teen volunteers generously serve as role models all across the state,” she said. “These individuals lead by example by helping with club and project groups. Volunteering has great mental and physical benefits for the volunteer, a family, a 4-H club and the community.”

A study conducted in 2023 by UTHealth Houston showed children and teens who volunteer tend to flourish mentally and physically. They’re less likely to have anxiety, depression or behavioral problems when compared to their peers who did not volunteer.

One of the benefits of volunteering is that it connects 4-H’ers with their fellow club members, as well as with members of the community.

Knoepfli said this process fosters the development of valuable relationships and life skills are developed while the hands are trained to be useful, helpful and skillful. Each of these contributes to the development of self-esteem.

“Research shows the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of life and future goals,” she said. “Compared to people who have never volunteered, the odds of being very happy rose 7% among those who currently volunteer monthly and 12% for those who volunteer every two to four weeks.”

Through the volunteering process, youth and adults expand their network of contacts, which can result in improving a person’s employment options and exposure to career opportunities while meeting a need and providing a service. 

In a nutshell, volunteering can bring fun and fulfillment to a person’s life.

“Volunteering provides a break from a person’s routine and work, offering an occasion for creativity and innovation that you may not have otherwise. The 4-H program is very appreciative of the thousands of volunteers who find fulfillment and fun in sharing their time, talents and services with our wonderful youth program,” Knoepfli said. “We thank you for being role models and living the ‘need’ to volunteer.”
As Elizabeth Andrews said, “Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, but they have the heart.”  Maybe this is the real reason for volunteering.

If you would like more information about 4-H, upcoming county events and activities, or how to join 4-H please contact Amanda Sestak Okfuskee County 4-H & Youth Development Educator by phone: 918-623-0641 or by email: 

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