A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky 4-H’ers finding safe, effective ways to impact their communities during COVID-19 pandemic


By Katie Pratt
University of Kentucky

Kentucky 4-H’ers are finding safe and effective ways to brighten people’s days and make their communities better places to live during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Nelson County, a group from the county’s 4-H teen council decided to host an online community service club on Zoom. Named 4-H Helping Hands, the group was led by the teens and met weekly during the fall to learn about community needs and socially distanced ways that they could address those needs.

Nelson County 4-H’ers and siblings Brooklyn, Trenton, Colton and Easton Hunt display the upcycled T-shirts they made and the food they collected to put in them as part of the Nelson County 4-H Helping Hands Club. (Photo by Shawna Hunt)

“It’s been super meaningful to watch as the 4-H’ers completed these projects,” said Danielle Hagler, Nelson County 4-H youth development agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “They have taken a lot of ownership and pride in this project. It is so good to see that, because you miss a lot of youth interactions in the virtual world.”

The group addressed community needs through grab-n-go projects that the club’s 20 members picked up at the extension office. They worked on them at home, often as a group during the virtual club meetings. Members then returned completed projects to the extension office where they were distributed throughout the community.

“I wanted to participate in the Helping Hands program, because I love to help people in need, and this gave me a chance to do that in my community,” said Laura Bolin, a Nelson County 4-H’er who helped lead the club. “This experience has taught me that you have to be flexible when doing projects and that you always need to be mindful of guidelines and protocol when planning service projects.”

Bolin’s sister, Natalie, was also a club leader and led the group through making lap blankets and holiday cards for residents of local long-term care facilities.

“I love this club so much, and I believe the message we are carrying is super important,” she said. “I hope this club will continue to grow, and that these young members will grow along with it and find new and insightful ways to care for the less fortunate in our beautiful community.”

In Eastern Kentucky, youth in the Knox County 4-H Teen Leadership Academy have worked on several outreach projects under the guidance of Renata Farmer, the county’s 4-H youth development agent. Youth made videos thanking healthcare workers and local school system employees for their work during the pandemic, collected food for different community groups and collected supplies for the local senior citizen center. They also made cards for local nursing home residents.

“Through doing community service projects with 4-H, such as hand-painting cards for the nursing home, I have been taught the compassion and understanding it takes to live a fulfilling life,” said Lily-Kate Hubbs, Knox County 4-H’er.

As in Nelson County, Knox County Teen Leadership Academy members brought their collected items to the extension office for distribution.

“Service learning is one of my favorite parts of 4-H,” Farmer said. “It is also something the teens said they would like to do more of. It is really great that they have been able to reach their community during the pandemic.”

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Sometimes, 4-H’ers have been able to fulfill community needs. That was the case in Carroll County when Joyce Doyle, the county’s 4-H agent, received a request from the local nursing home for a Pooch Parade. During the parade, members of the county’s 4-H Dog Club led their dogs around the outside perimeter of the nursing home as residents watched from their windows.

“The smiles on everyone’s faces were priceless,” Doyle said.

Carroll County 4-H’ers continued to be involved with the nursing home, as members of the Homeschool 4-H club created suncatchers using kits provided by extension and placed them on the outside of residents’ windows.

In Campbell County, a group of teens are also receiving community service hours for the National Honor Society as they complete 4-H outreach projects for the residents of Magnolia Springs Assisted Living and Memory Care Center in Florence. Campbell County 4-H agent Sherri Farley had a connection with the facility’s life enrichment director, who is a former Campbell County 4-H’er. In December, members made ornaments, toaster pastry houses and holiday cards. In 2021, the group plans to make no-sew fleece blankets, Valentine’s Day cards, coloring pages packets and flower arrangements for facility residents.

“I love being able to do these crafts through the 4-H program,” said Kayla Bolling, Campbell County 4-H’er. It is a way to give back and get involved in the community in a COVID-19 friendly way.”

Katie Pratt writes for the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.


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