Volunteer celebrates being part of 4-H for more than 50 years
LINCOLN, Neb. – Not many people in 4-H can say they’ve helped teach children from three generations of a family.
Then again, not many 4-H leaders have volunteered for more than 50 years.
For Virginia Grafton, 4-H has always been a family affair. Her parents and children all were involved in 4-H, and now her grandchildren are, too. Even her husband and his family have been in 4-H.
Grafton’s daughter, Linda Fitzsimmons, moved as far away as New York City to follow her career, but now even she helps her mother as a leader in 4-H around McCook. Grafton said Fitzsimmons, who has been helping with 4-H for nine years, pretty much required her children to be in 4-H.
“Her kids don’t have a choice,” Grafton said. “They’ll be in 4-H no matter what because she knows what she learned from 4-H. It’s not an option in her house.”
And it is the value of 4-H that has kept Grafton involved with the program for the majority of her life.
“I think it’s a great learning tool for kids,” she said. “It teaches lifetime skills for one thing. Also, it instills some responsibility in that they have to stick with something to get it finished.”
Grafton’s 4-H club caters to the Lebanon community about 30 miles southeast of McCook. She said when she started about 50 children participated in her club. The area school district later became consolidated, and Grafton said there has since been a drop in membership.
Donna Kircher, 4-H aide for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Red Willow County, said Grafton has been able to provide an essential service to children in an area that now doesn’t have the population for a large 4-H following.
“I know she’s helped a lot of kids who wouldn’t have an opportunity if she didn’t act as a leader and give them that opportunity,” she said.
Grafton said she’s taught dozens of children skills such as sewing and cooking.
“If they want to do it, we include them,” Grafton said.
It’s the children that Grafton said make her 4-H experiences the most rewarding. Whether it’s her own or someone else’s, she said watching children apply what they’ve learned in 4-H is a joy to see.
“I just like the positive attitudes from the kids that do good and get rewarded,” she said. “I like the self-esteem they get for themselves, to know that they can actually do this stuff.”
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