NEW CUMBERLAND, W. Va. — “I pledge my hands to larger service…” 4-H members recite these words to start each meeting, and around the holiday season many clubs put their hands into action serving communities meals, donating time and gifts.
The Sundowners 4-H Saddle Club in Hancock County, West Virginia, worked together in December to provide a merrier Christmas for 10 students at a local elementary school.
“We try to do a monthly community service as a club, stressing to the members the importance of being active and involved in their community,” said Megan Walker, club adviser. The club has four Cloverbuds (ages 5-8) and 20 members.
“Each month we do something and this month we picked this,” said 11-year-old club member Jillian Tetrault. Jillian and her sister Cristal show Thoroughbred and Quarter horses in 4-H.
The members have volunteered at the local animal shelter, completed roadside clean-ups, collected plastic bags to be woven into items for soldiers, made Valentine cards for the local nursing home, collected coats for schools and collected items for the Salvation Army.
The club pledged to sponsor four children at $50 each, said Walker, then families within the club sponsored six additional children. In all, club members bought and wrapped gifts for 10 children.
Seven club members, along with Susan Gracie, who is in her 40th year advising, and Walker delivered the packages to Cindy Virtue, principal at New Manchester Elementary.
“This is a phenomenal project and it is going to bring a lot of smiles our students’ faces,” said Virtue, who is in her sixth year as principal to the 290 students at the school.
“It is the first year for the program and we are proud of our nice community. We have gotten help before, like food backpacks, but never this type of help around the holidays for 10 kids,” Virtue said. “We are very grateful.”
Walker’s daughter Gracie, 6, said, “It means a lot for us to help them, because they are in need; their moms don’t have much money. I got to pick out a bunch of Spiderman stuff for the boy we had.”
This is Walker’s 11th year as a 4-H leader in Hancock County for the Sundowners, taking over for her mother, Tara Allison, who died in 2015.
“I am very proud of the kids for stepping up with this idea to sponsor gifts for these school kids. This time of year, it is important to do things like this so they learn to be grateful and giving. We hope to get more clubs involved next year,” Walker said.