SMITHFIELD, Ohio — I pledge… my hands to larger service. For 4-H’ers who recite those words as part of the 4-H pledge, community service is a regular occurrence, but for some club members in rural Jefferson County, dedication to service and fair improvement goes beyond most.
With the guidance of advisers Wesley Darling and Tami Millhorn, the 13 members of the Barshoe Wranglers 4-H club are tackling ways to improve their county fairgrounds through yearly projects.
The fairgrounds, known as Friendship Park, is perched on a remote hilltop surrounded by back roads and farms that are home to the many 4-H members and agricultural supporters of Jefferson County.
Focus on community
The projects began as a simple way to brighten the fairgrounds. But, after the first project — new flower beds in front of the horse barns — club members started to notice more areas of the grounds that could use their touch.
Within a year of making the flower beds, the club had constructed a mounting block for younger riders and those with large horses, allowing for easier and safer mounting before exercising and showing.
In the years to follow, the Barshoe Wranglers club members continued their commitment to bettering the fair. A hitching post now stands near the horse barns, giving horse exhibitors a place to tie their horses while waiting for classes and helping show day run much smoother.
“Most people wouldn’t think of something as simple as a hitching post,” said Morgan Millhorn, Barshoe Wrangler alumni, “but it’s the little things that make big improvements.”
Along with flower beds and hitching posts, the 4-H’ers are also responsible for a newly cemented and covered manure pit. The manure pit, also jokingly referred to as the “storm shelter” is a sturdy structure that keeps rain from washing the manure and bedding into walkways.
The club has also left its mark on the entrance to the fair. Once rusty and a bit of an eyesore, the “welcome trailer” received a coat of paint and a new sign welcoming and thanking fairgoers for visiting.
All for a reason
Though the work is hard and unpaid, the club understands the value of that community service.
“Everything we do here will be something you can tell your kids about,” said adviser Wesley Darling. “I tell all the members to take pride in their work, because what they do here today, will always be here.”
And with the satisfaction of knowing they made a positive change, said Millhorn, “the members all love showing off their projects at the fair. They get other kids involved and interested and the service spreads.”
There is no doubt that happiness and fun can be infectious, and that is the case with the Barshoe Wranglers’ service. Each year, as more groups see what the Wranglers are doing, more improvement projects start popping up around the fairgrounds.
In recent years, some of the other barns have even started building their own flower beds.
“It’s great to see our members influencing change and working together with other groups,” said Darling.
Current members may not realize the long-term benefits of their projects, but for Barshoe Wranglers alumni Millhorn and Courtney Darling, those benefits have already been seen in their everyday lives.
“It might sound cliche, but these projects really have built character and taught me how to work with others,” said Courtney Darling. “In this club, parents are there if we need help, but the meetings and community service projects are run by the members.”
“It’s helped me throughout college and life in general,” added Millhorn. “I pay attention to the little things and think outside the box.”
While members will come and go, Darling hopes that they all have the opportunity to help with a project; because “no matter how big or small, every little thing counts.”
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