SALEM, Ohio — Nancy Craig’s family tree is rooted in 4-H.
Her grandmother was a 4-H’er in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in the early days of 4-H. Her mother, along with her seven aunts and uncles, was also a 4-H’er. Craig took 4-H projects as a child, but her involvement did not stop with her years as a member.
This year, she was recognized for 55 years of 4-H volunteer service with the Ohio 4-H Youth Development Program at the Ohio 4-H conference.
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Got start in Pennsylvania
Craig was involved with 4-H for 15 years in Pennsylvania. As a 4-H’er, Craig took projects like sewing, cooking classes and hogs. Later, she served as an adviser for Making the Best Better, a club in Pennsylvania. The club worked mainly with sewing, woodworking, cooking and ceramics.
“You won’t believe the people, how many of them said ‘I would never have been able to sew, I would never have been able to cook, Nancy, if it wasn’t for you,” Craig said, thinking back to how her advising affected the children involved in her club.
Her own children were in 4-H, so when her family moved to Ohio in 1980, they had to get involved in the Ohio branch of 4-H. Craig said the three advisers for the 4-H Challengers — Linda Cost, Nancy Miller and Marsha Klutz — invited her children to join their club. Soon after, Craig started to help as an adviser for the club and for the second club they eventually formed, the Crafty Critters.
She and the three other advisers divided the 17 projects, which included sewing, cooking, animal projects and gardening. Sometimes, Craig would hold meetings in the back of her garage.
“I love working with people,” Craig said. “My main goal is — I had five kids of my own — I don’t believe in sitting in front of the TV, I believe kids should be doing things.”
Craig explained her father always said not to tell him she was bored — if she did, he would find work for her to do. As an adult, Craig modified her father’s saying.
“I always said, if you’re bored, take another project, it’ll keep you busy.”
Many of her students took five to seven projects every year. One year, Craig said she had 22 out of her 32 4-H’ers go to the Ohio State Fair with projects ranging from sheep and pigs to ceramics, outdoor cooking, clothing and baking.
Craig would often drive 4-H’ers to the state fair herself in her 11-seat van. “If the parents couldn’t take them, we took them down for the day,” she said.
Craig is most proud of “what my students did, how they made an effort to be able to go to Columbus,” and of the improvements she saw in her 4-H’ers’ projects from year to year.
There were times where parents were unable to keep up with children on their projects, and that was where she came in. She would visit her 4-H’ers on the weekends to help them with projects like gardening. In one case, a 4-H’er who she helped with a garden placed second at the state fair.
“It’s terrific that you can be able to do that to help kids,” Craig said.
Although she is no longer a club adviser, Craig has served as a key worker for the Trumbull County Fair for the last five years. In that role, she has helped sell cookbooks, volunteered at the dairy barn, and sold water at the fair to raise money for 4-H’ers going to college.
Craig has also volunteered at 4-H Camp Whitewood, although she has been unable to the last few years due to her asthma.
“I loved working the campsite,” she said. “The kids were a lot of fun.”
4-H has taught her to look out “for something better in life” and “be positive about the things you’re going to do.”
Craig said staying active can be difficult for older people who have health concerns, but in the end, she’s learned to “be positive about it and go out there and do it. You can do it if you have the health to do it.”
To other advisers, Craig offers this encouragement: “The main thing, is you’re going after a goal. Kids enjoy having you as an adviser and they look forward to another year with you.”
Still, Craig’s focus remains on the reason she got involved: The children.
“Youth groups need this nowadays — keep them out of trouble,” Craig added with a laugh.
“I thank God every day that I did this.”
(Freelancer Sarah Donkin served as Farm and Dairy’s editorial intern this summer. She is a student at the University of Mount Union.)