Tag Archive: Volunteer

Serving Special Needs Drives this Volunteer

“This group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other.  Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”

Ann Marie Shelton and Syntha Alvarez

On day four of National Volunteer Week, Jackson County 4-H Agent Angel Granger shares the story of Ann Marie Shelton, a volunteer who leads the Jackson County 4-H ASK Club – Always Support Kids.  In her own words, Ann Marie shares what inspired her to start this club and the impact it has had:

“The volunteer part is deep rooted, goes back to me as a very small child.  I enjoyed helping others, it made me feel good!  That stuck with me through the years.  There is so much going on in the world that is tough to hear.  I firmly believe that we have the power to change much of this.  Volunteering time, expertise, and a dash of passion will do much to make this world a better place.  When volunteering, you are given the opportunity to lead by example, by not waiting around for good or needed things to happen you are showing that everyone has the capacity within themselves to be a part of the change.  This may require you to step out of your comfort zone and start something new or join a group of volunteers already working on a cause of interest to you. One benefit of volunteering is you get to choose areas to volunteer that are of interest to you, whether it be something you are passionate about or something you want to learn about.

ASK Volunteer Anne Marie Shelton (pictured 3rd L-R) with her club members.

After having my four children, two of which are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and reconnecting with a friend from High School with two children on the autism spectrum, volunteering became even more important to me.  What we have found, living in our rural part of the state of Florida, is that there are few formal services or programs offered for children with exceptional needs.  I like to refer to these as diffabilities (I did not come up with this word, but it is perfect).  When our son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was having such difficulties in certain settings outside the home, our instinct was to withdraw to the safety of our home, not pursuing social opportunities outside the home, that were new or unfamiliar.

Eventually we realized that was not in anyone’s best interest.  After diagnosis, we began connecting with families and organizations all over the panhandle of Florida that were on similar missions.  We also came to realize that we needed to expand on special interests and explore potential new interests, leisure opportunities, future job skills and the like.  We had been following the ASK-Madison 4-H Group on Facebook and had made connections with Leslie McLeod.  When the opportunity arose last year at Family Café, an annual disabilities related conference in Florida, to hear about their 4-H program, we jumped at the chance to find out more.  After getting to hear them talk about their program and finding out about the number of diverse opportunities 4-H offers, we decided to give it a go, in our community so we contacted our 4-H agent Angel Granger to find out how to get started. We wanted to provide a group that families could feel comfortable in participating in.  We wanted those families to know, that we understand the best way for our kids to learn about participating in group activities and activities within our community, was to experience it.  They often need a safe place to start, to let down their guards, to learn new skills and more importantly be given a multitude of opportunities to practice those new skills, in different situations, with different people, in different environments.”

The group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other.  Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”

If you are interested in starting a similar club in your county (or helping other volunteers support exceptional youth), contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

ASK Jackson County 4-H Facebook

Chipola Area Autism Resource Center, Inc. Facebook


Author: amgranger – amgranger@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/27/serving-special-needs-drives-this-volunteer/

Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week!

Our volunteers help make clubs, camps, and other educational programs possible so that we can Grow 4-H in Florida!

Our volunteers help make clubs, camps, and other educational programs possible so that we can Grow 4-H in Florida!  Photo credit: National 4-H Council

Sunday, April 10th, marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week.  A recent study found that volunteers are directly responsible for teaching as much as 50% of the life skills a youth learns through the 4-H program (Fogarty et al).  Volunteers are essential to the delivery of the 4-H program, and starting on Sunday, we want to share some of their stories with you.

Our volunteers come to us with a variety of expertise.  Some volunteer a little, some volunteer a lot, but every single one of them makes a difference.  And they all have one thing in common: to ignite that spark in the next generation by sharing their passion, knowledge and skills.  4-H is delivered in several different ways; our most traditional way is through community clubs.  We also have clubs that are centered around a particular project or subject such as robotics, fishing, sewing, etc.  Some clubs event meet during or after school.  There are also short-term programs that are delivered through the schools such as embryology, 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking, gardening, and agricultural awareness.  Another popular way we deliver 4-H is through our residential and day camping programs.  4-H volunteers help make all of this possible under the leadership and direction of their local 4-H Extension Agent.

Each day, we will highlight a different type of 4-H volunteer to give you an overview of the different roles our volunteers serve.  We hope this series will not only inspire you, but create more awareness of our volunteer programs.  Most importantly, we want to recognize the wonderful contributions that each of these volunteers is making.  If you are not already a volunteer, think about sharing your talents with us!  You can fuel the extraordinary efforts of our youth by joining us as a volunteer.   To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers.  Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week- we hope you will enjoy our series as much as we enjoy working with our incredible volunteers!


Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/08/happy-national-volunteer-appreciation-week/

Leon County Extension Launches “Adopt-a-Garden” Volunteer Program

Leon County Extension Launches “Adopt-a-Garden” Volunteer Program

Volunteers after lots of hard work mulching and adding compost to eight raised beds at The Shelter garden.

Volunteers after lots of hard work mulching and adding compost to eight raised beds at The Shelter garden.

Have you ever been interested in volunteering at a school or community garden? Are you involved with a garden that could use some help? Well, UF/IFAS Leon County Extension recently started an Adopt-a-Garden program for volunteers to “adopt” a school or community garden for volunteer credit. Volunteers can teach hands-on gardening techniques, conduct educational talks and present displays at garden workdays, assist with garden planning and networking, encourage gardeners to work together, and help with any other activity that adds to the vitality of the garden. The program focuses on garden education and outreach as the primary objectives.

Volunteers hard at work planting fall vegetables in The Shelter garden.

The first major project of the Adopt-a-Garden program has been very exciting, with UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Master Gardeners “adopting” the new homeless shelter at the Kearney Center in Leon County. Master Gardeners lead the way in the organization and construction of eight raised bed vegetable gardens located on site directly behind The Shelter facility. They were awarded a community garden mini-grant from Leon County, which helped to cover garden supplies.

The Leon County Master Gardeners have received assistance from UF/IFAS Extension Agents, Florida State’s College of Social Work, and many other members of the community in gathering supplies and donations, recruiting volunteers, communicating with The Shelter staff, building and filling the raised beds, planting the garden, and maintaining the garden.

The gardening materials for The Shelter garden were generously supplied at no coast or at discounted costs by Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britt’s Dump Truck Services, Tallahassee Nurseries, Native Nurseries, Asplundh, and the FSU College of Social Work.

Shelter resident watering freshly planted lettuce.

Shelter resident watering freshly planted lettuce.

Leon County Extension and Leon County’s Office of Resource Stewardship will conduct shelter resident and staff garden trainings to ensure the garden is maintained and successful going forward. Extension’s Family Nutrition Program is currently offering nutrition education classes to shelter residents as well.

This project will allow shelter residents to get hands-on experience working in a vegetable garden, learn about different vegetable varieties, and taste their harvest, as vegetables that are grown in the garden go directly to The Shelter kitchen for meal preparation. The garden was officially dedicated as the Wendy Crook Memorial Garden by Leon County Government, with the dedication event reported by local television station ABC 27 WTXL. The article and video clip can be viewed here.

Along with the Wendy Crook Memorial Garden, other school and community gardens have been “adopted” by volunteers. If you are in the Leon County area and are interested in becoming a volunteer with the Adopt-a-Garden program, you can find out more information at the Leon County Adopt-a-Garden website or contact Extension Agent Molly Jameson, at mjameson@ufl.edu. Volunteers are encouraged to team up on garden projects and all levels of gardening experience are welcome.


Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/01/14/leon-county-extension-launches-adopt-a-garden-volunteer-program/

4-H Volunteer Grows Confidence through Gardening Project

4-H School Gardens reach youth who do not have access to 4-H Clubs

4-H School Gardens help youth learn about science, food and nutrition, and life skills such as responsibility.

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

With 4-H volunteers, Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development, and UF IFAS Extension all in a row!

School gardens have become the perfect avenue to implement experiential learning. They provide the students with a safe environment which fosters cooperative learning, and focuses on nurturing the essential elements youth require in order to become competent caring citizens.  Joe Crozier is a Master Gardener and 4-H volunteer in Walton County. Joe has extensive knowledge in gardening including container gardening and hydroponics. Joe has shared his success and expertise in hydroponics through Master Gardener workshops in the Florida panhandle. However, Joe has a passion for sharing his knowledge with children through the 4-H gardening project and was recruited by the Assistant Principal at Freeport Elementary to begin gardening with the 4th Grade classes.

When asked what inspires Joe to continue to be a 4-H Volunteer, he says “The questions the students ask, and most of all, the smiles on their faces as they plant seeds and become part of the 4-H School Garden Program.”

4-H School Garden at Freeport Elementary

The 4-H School Garden at Freeport Elementary would not have been possible without Joe’s volunteer service

Last year, Joe developed a raised bed garden at Freeport Elementary, which has now expanded to include a bean tee-pee and additional beds. Each student had their own section, per their request, in order to master their green thumb. Prior to this, and the ignition to their new found passion for gardening, the students participated in the “Potato Project,” and grew potatoes in laundry baskets. The students were amazed that this was possible, not to mention the quantity and quality of potatoes that emerged! Once the potatoes were harvested, the children prepared them for cooking and the lunchroom returned the favor by providing each classroom with their own piping hot buttery new potatoes. Children who wouldn’t normally touch vegetables eagerly awaited the moment they could taste the fruit of their labor.

Joe has devoted countless hours to the 4-H School Gardens Program. When asked how 4-H has made a difference in the lives of the students at the school, Joe stated “They involve their parents when they take what they’ve learned in the garden home! Some children have never been taught how to garden or how to grow their own food. Spending time teaching these children makes me so happy and is so contagious that my family notices how proud I am of them.” Thanks to his diligence and dedication, more schools are eager to join the Potato Project and develop their own 4-H School Gardens in Walton County.

If you have a green thumb, consider going “totally green” as a 4-H gardening volunteer! 4-H needs caring adults like you to share their knowledge and passion for gardening with the next generation. Through the 4-H gardening project, youth not only learn gardening knowledge and skills, they also learn responsibility, teamwork, and other life skills that will help them grow up to be compassionate and competent citizens. To get involved, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org./volunteers.

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Author: brooks15 – brooks15@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/15/4-h-volunteer-grows-confidence-through-gardening-project/

Tips for the Busy 4-H Volunteer

4-H Club Meeting4-H Volunteers are busy people. Most volunteers volunteer for other organizations outside of 4-H and they are active in their communities. Many volunteers also have children or grandchildren that they care for. Leading a 4-H club should be a fun and rewarding experience. Earlier this month, during our Make a Difference Monday Volunteer Leader Series, Julie Dillard shared some great tips to help club leaders stay organized, and most importantly, save time and enjoy being a 4-H Volunteer!

Create a Sense of Belonging– one of the basic things that will help your club is to make sure everyone feels welcome and that they belong. This task is an easy one to delegate to a club parent or even your club officers.

  • Names – know and use the names of your 4-H’ers. Use name tags if needed until you get to know all of their names
  • Designate a member of parent each month to welcome 4-H’ers as they arrive
  • Ask a 4-Her or officer to plan an icebreaker each month
  • Create opportunities for 4-H’ers to work together on simple projects such as a team club demonstration or committee work
  • Keep meetings fun! Look for some really creative ideas to make meetings fun (and less work for you) next week…

Utilize the Club Leader Notebook- Meet with your 4-H agent to pick up your club leader notebook. This notebook has been designed to make it easy for club leaders to keep track of meeting information, club dues, and other club and county events. In your notebook, you will find:

  • Club summary worksheet– This basically answers who, when and what. The top box is a record of what kind of event or activity whether it’s a club meeting, an educational workshop or some other event like an end of the year party or a field trip. At every 4-H event, both youth and adults should sign in. The notes section is a handy way to jot down reminders.
  • Monies Received Form– Using a monies received form allows you to see quickly who has given you money and what it is for and also allows it to be quickly entered in our accounting software. This creates a paper trail, which makes handling funds much easier and also protects the club and club leader.
  • Check Request Form– This form is for purchases that are planned ahead of time to a specific place of business or a person. It’s also for those times when you didn’t have time to go to the 4-H Office to pick up a check, so you picked it up and paid for it yourself. Just use this form and attached a copy of your receipt.
  • Fundraising Permission Form– This purpose of this form is not only to inform the club about a fundraiser, but also to identify the purpose of the funds. Funds should have a planned purpose to benefit the club members. Not only that, but your 4-H Agent should be kept in the loop on all fundraisers so he or she can approve it as well as be able to tell others what the funds are being used for. Most importantly, this helps youth learn about goal setting and planning to achieve those goals.
  • Accident and Injury Form- No matter how long we have been a volunteer, or how organized we are, there is always a chance that the unexpected will happen. When it does, we need to document it. Any time there is an accident or injury that occurs to a youth or volunteer during a 4-H event, we need to complete this report as soon as possible (after the injured person is cared for).

How to reduce risk and what to do when an accident does happen is the topic for next month’s Make a Difference Monday. On October 20th, at 7/6 central, Dr. Dale Pracht will be sharing how to create safe environments in our 4-H clubs. If you cannot make our live presentation, it will be archived along with this month’s presentation at http://florida4h.org/madmondays.


Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/09/27/tips-for-the-busy-4-h-volunteer/

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Helps Everyone Win

picture of a button taxes done free

The Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax preparation to qualifying taxpayers.

Tax season starts officially on January 31, 2014.  Now is time to start gathering documents and deciding on a tax preparer. For low to moderate income individuals and families, the VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) program maybe an option.  Generally, VITA offers free tax help to people making less than $ 52,000.

When taxpayers use VITA everyone wins! The Federal government saves money due to increases in electronic filings and reduced filing errors. Local economies benefit when taxpayers receive their entire refund to spend in the communities where they live and work.  Thanks to the help of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) trained and certified volunteers, qualified taxpayers save money on tax return preparation fees by receiving free high quality tax preparation service with access to e-file and direct deposit.


Volunteers will prepare:

  • Form 982, Cancelation of Debt***
  • Form 1040EZ, 1040A, 1040
  • Schedules A,B,D***,C-EZ,EIC,R, SE
  • Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss***
  • Schedule C, Profit or Loss from a Business***
  • Form 1040-V Balance Due Returns
  • Form 1040 –ES Estimated Tax Payments
  • Form 2016, Employee Business Expenses***
  • Form 2441 Child and Dependent Care Credit
  • Form 3903 Moving Expenses
  • Form 5329 Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans and Other Tax-Favored Accounts (part 1)
  • Form 5405, First Time Homebuyers
  • Form 8863 Education Credits
  • Form 8880 Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions
  • Additional Child Tax Credit
  • Form 8888 Allocation of Refund
  • Form 88889 Health Savings Accounts***
  • Form 8949 Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets
  • Form 1040-X Amended Returns***

***These services are limited and depending on the scope of the request may require the assistance of a paid preparer.

 For assistance finding a VITA site near you contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/

or United Way (dial 211 or visit  www.211.org).


Author: Kristin Jackson – kris88@UFL.EDU

Jefferson County Family Consumer Science/4H Agent

Kristin Jackson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/01/22/volunteer-income-tax-assistance-vita-helps-everyone-win/

Advanced MG and 4-H Volunteer Training: Vegetable Gardening

Advanced MG and 4-H Volunteer Training: Vegetable Gardening

Vegetable Gardening


Eventbrite - Advanced MG & 4-H Training: Vegetable Gardening


Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension
Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/11/18/advanced-mg-and-4-h-volunteer-training-vegetable-gardening/

How Volunteer Leaders Can Promote 4-H Camp Involvement

1013441_659740687387883_254816366_n[1]One word: Incentives

Youth enjoy 4-H summer camp because it provides a welcoming environment where they can learn and grow.  They get to make new friends and participate in activities like, archery, swimming, canoeing, rocketry, kayaking, arts and crafts, and more.  When they come home from camp singing camp songs and relating their awesome experiences, they encourage their friends at school as well as fellow club members to come with them during the next year. With this in mind, how can club leaders and other volunteers encourage youth to participate in camp if they have never attended or have never considered attending?

At this time of year, camps may already be over for your county 4-H program, but it is never too early to start planning for next summer. As club leaders, when you begin thinking about fundraising and club program planning for the fall, consider incorporating some “camp incentives” for youth who might want to plan to attend camp next year. Here are a few ideas:

  • Include fundraising percentages or credits given to members who participate in and plan club fundraisers.  Maybe 10% of the funds they raise for the club in a particular fundraiser will go to their camp fees, etc.
  • You may offer full or partial scholarships to youth who demonstrate leadership or take on an officer role in a community club setting.
  • Allow 4-H members who turn in a completed and well-produced project book to be rewarded at the awards banquet with a camp price reduction or prize to be used in conjunction with camp attendance such as a club t-shirt or goodie bag with camp related items.

While funding for camp can introduce challenges for some club members, these obstacles when handled appropriately and quickly can provide terrific learning opportunities for youth who earn their way to attend camp and have a wonderful experience while there.


Author: Sherri Kraeft – sjkraeft@ufl.edu

Sherri Kraeft is the Wakulla County 4-H Agent

Sherri Kraeft

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/07/05/how-volunteer-leaders-can-promote-4-h-camp-involvement/

Avoid the Dreaded “Volunteer Burnout”

Spring and summer seasons can seem like a busier time than normal for 4-H volunteers.  Between 4-H/Tropicana, shooting sports matches, volunteer trainings and upcoming summer day camps, 4-H becomes a world of its own with wonderful youth development opportunities to teach needed life skills to our youth.  However, with the busy season approaching, concern of the dreaded VOLUNTEER BURNOUT is real.  It typically rears its ugly head starting in April and really takes a hold by June.  By July, it has claimed more volunteer victims than we like to admit. It is dark, ugly, and heavy.  It preys on the unsuspecting, the tired, the unselfish.

Do you feel the burn?

Do you feel the burn?

What causes volunteer burnout, and how does one recognize it before it attacks? Volunteer burnout can be a result of one or more factors such as over commitment, lack of sufficient breaks and rest, excessive responsibilities, an inability to say “no” and so on.  Volunteer burnout will typically prey on the loyal, unselfish, dedicated volunteer who wants to make a difference but may do so too much, too fast, and/or too often.  The only way to avoid volunteer burnout is to…take time for YOU.

“Wait, what?  Take time for myself?  But what about the youth I am positively impacting through 4-H?” you may ask.  Well, the old saying “you cannot help others if you are not taking care of yourself first” applies here.  In order for this to occur, you have to tend to yourself and have a healthy balance established between your needs, your family, work, etc.

If you are concerned that you are starting to feel the effects of volunteer burnout, talk to your 4-H Agent immediately.  Find out what can be done to help you ease the burden you are feeling.  Sometimes, it is a simple solution of talking through your concerns and frustrations regarding your schedule and setting priorities and new boundaries.  Other times it may mean getting more sleep, exercise, or starting a hobby that relaxes you.  Then again, sometimes it may require that more drastic measures be implemented such as giving up a task, learning to say “no” more often or even taking a few weeks off from your volunteer duties to tend to your own needs by enjoying the beautiful weather and working in your garden.

So, before you let the nasty volunteer burnout monster bite and send you running from the wonderful 4-H program you are involved in, we urge you to maintain a healthy balance between dedicated and delirious.  Take time for yourself.  Eat healthy.  Exercise regularly.  Spend quality time with family and friends.  Enjoy the spring days.  Visit the UF IFAS EDIS website (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/) for fantastic gardening tips.  Remember that you have the 4-H family in your corner supporting you 100% in your need for a little “you” time!



Author: Niki Crawson – ncrawson@ufl.edu

Niki Crawson is the Holmes County 4-H Extension Agent in the NW District.

Niki Crawson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/03/30/avoid-the-dreaded-volunteer-burnout/

Northwest 4-H Volunteer Fall Forum

Join 4-H volunteers and staff from the panhandle of Florida to learn new ways to engage youth in 4-H programs in a fun and educational way.  The Northwest 4-H Volunteer Forum will be held September 14-15 at 4-H Camp Timpoochee near Niceville Florida.  Teen and adult club volunteers, 4-H staff, and military and afterschool staff are encouraged to participate in the forum to explore new 4-H curriculum and activities, learn ways to make their 4-H programs more fun and meaningful, learn tips for recruiting volunteers and fundraising, and to network with other 4-H volunteers and staff.  Shooting Sports Instructor and chaperone certification will be included as part of the forum.  A tentative schedule, and additional registration information can be found on the Registration Flyer.

Proposals for the share fair, make and take craft session, and workshops are due August 1st.   Descriptions of selected sessions will be available online August 15th.

Registration Forms are due August 31st.


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/06/19/northwest-4-h-volunteer-fall-forum/

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