4-H parents/volunteers gather at annual state conference

Sonya McDaniel, extension educator, FCS/CED
Pottawatomie County Extension Service
Julie Merrick of McLoud was among those attending the 2021 Parent-Volunteer Conference.

Parents and volunteers with the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program gathered recently on the Oklahoma State University campus to share ideas, recognize the achievements of some of their peers, as well as have fun … in person.

With the 2020 Parent-Volunteer Conference taking place only virtually last year, this year’s event was a combination of in-person and virtual. Attending from Pottawatomie County was Julie Merrick of McLoud. The theme for the 2021 conference was Oklahoma 4-H NOW More Than Ever.

Oklahoma 4-H plays a big role in shaping the lives of its members, and the parents who serve as volunteers gain an even greater understanding of the role 4-H plays in providing a safe environment socially, emotionally and physically in all 77 counties across the state, said Karla Knoepfli, OSU Extension state volunteer specialist in the State 4-H Office

“Our great volunteers, along with our dedicated state staff, were excited with the opportunity to fellowship and network with others this year,” Knoepfli said. “Virtual programming has great benefits, such as volunteers from out of state who can participate, but it can’t replace the connections made and attentiveness one has with face-to-face programming.”

Missy Quintero, incoming president of the volunteer board, said everyone was excited to see each other in person.

“The excitement on everyone’s faces during registration was contagious. People couldn’t wait to get to talk and share ideas with other volunteers,” Quintero said. “Being able to be in person during workshops also was great. Learning by doing and being able to see, touch and be hands-on with the workshops was helpful.”

This year’s participants had a variety of workshops from which to choose, including topics such as 4-H on TRAC, insects, computer coding, mental health trends, creating landscape designs for hands-on activities, fostering creative thinking, tips for keeping members and their families active virtually, civic engagement and much more.

“We get so much out of these workshops, but attending the conference offers so much more than new curriculum and programming ideas. Volunteers gain the personal relationships with other volunteers from around the state that they can lean on for support throughout the year,” Quintero said. “And, of course, the games and door prizes are always top notch. The conference is a great motivator to get started on a new 4-H year. Volunteers left feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to take on a new 4-H year with new ideas.”

While the 4-H program is known to celebrate the successes of its members, the conference also was a time to celebrate the hard work and dedication of some special volunteers.

Lily Stubbs, of Cleveland County, was recognized as the recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Volunteer of the Year, as well as the Southeast District Lifetime Volunteer of the Year. This award is presented to a volunteer with 10 or more years of service to 4-H. She has been a certified volunteer for 14 years.

Pittsburg County’s own Sheryl Moore was recognized as the 2021 Volunteer of the Year, as well as the Southeast District Volunteer of the Year. This award is presented to a volunteer with less than 10 years of service. She has served as a volunteer for nine years.

Conference attendees got a special surprise at the awards luncheon when Buffy and Joe from Eskimo Joe’s made an appearance to debut a new 4-H T-shirt.