During his talk at 4-H Roundup on June 14, former U.S. Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady defined a hero as "someone who does something to help" someone else. And the community service projects on display during the week of Roundup proved that 4-H'ers are just that.
Council members from each of the 12 districts showed how 4-H'ers have been heroes this year by presenting displays of community service projects.
The underlying theme in this year's projects turned out to be children. From Ronald McDonald Houses to soup kitchens to children's hospitals--several agencies that serve children were the beneficiaries of these efforts.
Carlos Dorr, 19, of Victoria in District 11, said his group provided Christmas stockings to children who otherwise might not have had much of a holiday season. Operating through the auspices of Martha's Kids, an agency that helps children from disadvantaged families, these 4-H'ers made, filled and delivered about 500 Christmas stockings, Dorr said.
The stockings were filled with personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as small toys and other items guaranteed to make the season brighter.
This particular project is itself a holiday tradition, Dorr said. "It's been going on for about four years. I'm the fourth person to take it on."
In District 9, Ashli Woodward, 18, of Bryan, and other 4-H Council members decided their project would also benefit children.
"We decided to take a collection of stuffed animals and donate it to a local establishment (in Bryan) known as Scotty's House," she said. "It's a place where abused children are interviewed and examined by a physician."
In spite of the fact that the project was a last-minute effort, the 4-H'ers collected about 100 stuffed animals, Woodward said. "We collected half on one weekend and half (on another) weekend." She would like to see the project done again next year.
Misty Wilburn, 17, of Center in District 5, said the 4-H Council there decided to concentrate on safe summer fun this year, by collecting such items as sunglasses, sunscreen, visors and hats, and distributing them to children and senior citizens.
Working with the local Cancer Prevention Association, the 4-H'ers gave these sun-protection items to "around 400 to 500 people," she said, at such events as Heritage Days.
In the process, they learned a lot about how to protect themselves and others from the dangers of the sun's rays. Wilburn said she learned that sunscreen is not really waterproof, even when it is advertised to be, and needs to be reapplied for continuing protection. She also advised to use a sunscreen with at least a 45 protection rating.
In addition, she learned to appreciate the wisdom of the elderly. "A lot of times as teenagers, we forget to talk to elders," she said. "And they are some really neat people."
Mark Lutkenhaus, 18, of Lindsay in District 4, said the 4-H Council there took on two community service projects.
One was to renovate a barn--"we closed in the area for saddles and tack and feed"--located at Fish Creek Boys Ranch, a home for up to 25 troubled boys.
The other involved packing boxes with such supplies as personal hygiene products and school supplies, and sending to the Red Cross for distribution in Mexico.
"We packed about 75 (individual) boxes plus three large boxes of toiletries and personal hygiene (products)," he said. "The Red Cross handled it. They distributed it out to where it needed to go."
District 12 4-H Council members collected books for children, said Michelle Gorhum, 17, of Pearsall. They decided on this project so children who might not have access to books could discover the joys reading can bring.
The 4-H'ers collected books and donated them to the Texas Migrant Council/Head Start program of Kleberg and Kenedy counties, Gorhum said. Of the approximately 175 books collected, "up to 30 to 35%... were in dual languages (English and Spanish) or solely in Spanish," she said. "The books collected were for beginning readers up to about fourth grade (level)."
The project "was fun and very beneficial to our district," Gorhum said, since District 12 has a high migrant population. She is hoping this 4-H project will encourage some of the young recipients of the books to join 4-H themselves someday.
All the 4-H council members agreed, no matter what their community service projects were, they all felt good about being able to give to others and to give back to their communities.
"Community service projects are to help anybody who needs help," Dorr said. "Kids, adults, who need help (such as women's foundations)--anything that helps somebody else have something they don't already have, that is serving your community.
"It gave me a warm feeling inside."
Woodward agreed. "It made me feel like a good person, doing something good for someone else."
This year, for their community service projects, 4-H'ers in the other districts:
--Collected goods, such as toiletries, games and cleaning supplies, for the local Ronald McDonald House in District 1. They also collected coats, food and toys across the county, as well as funds to donated to the St. Jude's Foundation.
--Put together Care Baskets for children in Methodist Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in District 2. The baskets contained such items as coloring books, games, toys, cookies and stuffed animals.
--Worked with Wise County Area Relief Mission in District 3 to provide products such as canned foods, pasta, tuna, diapers and personal hygiene products for those in need.
--Participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life project in District 6 by collecting donations from sponsors and walking in a 24-hour marathon to benefit cancer patients and their families. Members also had county-wide food and coat drives for local food banks and those in need.
--Through a "Staples for Survival" project, conducted small county-wide projects in District 7, including collecting donations of clothing, food and bottled water for a prison ministry and the NOAH Project. Members also helped in the Adopt-A-Highway program.
--Conducted food drives on the county level in District 8, for such agencies as the Ronald McDonald House, Martha's Kitchen (a local homeless shelter) and local food banks.
--Collected Coins From Heaven at all District 10 events. Members set a goal of collecting $350 in coins to be donated to the Ronald McDonald House.