Editor's note: This is the third in a six-part series of stories highlighting the Wayne County 4-H program.
— Diane Rickard may have said it best when asked why someone should join 4-H.
"Memories of a lifetime," said Rickard, a key leader with the Cherry Ridge 4-H Club.
Rickard has been involved with 4-H since 1996 and raised four boys, all of whom participated in the program.
"I wish I had joined 4-H as a kid," said Randy Peifer, a key leader with the Explorers 4-H Club in Cherry Ridge.
But Peifer's children did get involved with 4-H and because of that, he has been a leader for the past seven years. He still has two children in 4-H and his oldest daughter just turned 19 and is going to become a leader.
"They work and play together and make a lot of new friends," said Barbara Brown from the Tri-Gal 4-H Club in Damascus who has been a leader for 20 years.
She, too, has had three children involved in the Wayne County 4-H program.
"If we didn't have leaders, we wouldn't have a program," said Jessica Scull, Cooperative Extension Agent in Wayne County who is in charge of the 4-H program.
Being a 4-H leader has many aspects and they play a key role in determining what project members might undertake in a given year.
"Guidance," said Brown. "Leading children to the things that are good for them. It teaches a lot of responsibility."
Brown also said one of the roles is to make sure those who sign up don't take on too many things at one time.
Many, she said, don't realize how much book work is involved in doing the projects.
"I'm lucky," said Peifer, noting he has many other adult leaders in their club, which has around 27 members.
Peifer said "a lot of the kids" know what they want to do when they join, but others do not and that's where leadership comes into play.
Rickard said she tries to "steer" the kids into finding the right types of projects to take on during a year.
"The kids are busy in everything," she said, noting many are involved in school activities and other community organizations.
"4-H members are busy doing a lot of things," said Peifer. "And they are very community oriented."
Brown said, for example, one thing a leader can do when it comes to animal projects is put some reality into the situation.
For instance, she said when new members want to do an animal project, she might guide them to rabbits which consume less time.
Page 2 of 3 - Unless they have siblings who have done the larger animals, she said it is difficult for them to understand how much work is involved.
Another aspect of the larger animals, she noted, is the fact they have to give them up at the end of the project through the annual livestock sale.
"They get so involved with them, it is hard," said Brown.
She also noted the book work involved is "very stressful."
Another very important aspect of 4-H, said all of the leaders, is how it develops a sense of community and friendship among the members.
"When they give demonstrations, you see in their faces what they learned," said Peifer.
Rickard said their club did a science presentation in which everyone had to participate.
"All of the kids came with a project," said Rickard. "It was one of my better meetings."
Brown said she thinks one of the benefits is how it teaches public speaking.
She also believes the older members are very good about helping out the newer club members.
"The older kids help the younger kids," said Brown. "They work and play together and make a lot of new friends."
"I think 4-H is one of the best things for kids," said Peifer.
"It's good socialization," said Rickard. "They make lasting friendships."
Peifer pointed out that each year, some members attend a 4-H camp, where they make all kinds of friends for various areas.
"My daughters still talk about camp," he said.
Of course the "Super Bowl" each year for 4-H members, and leaders, is participation in the county fair.
"It is everything," said Brown. "They work all year long and that is the end of their project."
She also noted that at the fair, they meet "new friends and do fun things with each other."
"They are all very supportive of each other," said Rickard.
The 4-H program is operated by Penn State Extension through the county extension offices throughout the state.
Scull is making an effort to get more people involved in the program and part of that is an upcoming open house.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Penn State Extension Office located in the Park Street Complex in Honesdale.
The theme is "4-H ... Something for everyone."
That, said Scull, is something many people don't realize. From traditional animal projects to rocketry to cooking, the variety of projects is almost endless.
Page 3 of 3 - At the open house, people will be able to speak with project experts, there will be projects on display, games will be played, there will be snacks and more.
Persons age 5-18 can join 4-H and that information will be available at the open house. Currently, there are 18 4-H clubs throughout Wayne County, all led by highly trained and full screened adult leaders.
If you would like more information about 4-H,. contact Scull at 253-5970, ext. 4110 or visit extension.psu.edu.
Coming next Thursday: An interview with three members of the 4-H Youth Leadership Council.