Ready for something that sounds impressive? In 2016, adult 4-H volunteers gave 3,066 hours of their time to the Robeson County 4-H Program. When you realize that a volunteer’s time is valued at $23.56 per hour, that equates to giving $72,235 back to our youth and community.
If that sounds good, there’s more. All of our Robeson County Extension volunteers — 4-H, Ag, Family and Consumer Sciences, and EFNEP — combined donated 4,402 hours of their time in 2016. That equals to a $103,711 investment in our program and community. I would dare say, although these figures are impressive, it does not scratch the surface of the effect our volunteers have.
I recently returned from the National Extension Conference on Volunteerism,which was held right here in North Carolina, and it was an eye opener. I always love new training opportunities for our volunteers — yes, our volunteers receive lots of training in Extension — and new ways to motivate and recognize them. This conference offered that and so much more. One of the workshops looked at how we can communicate the true impact of our volunteers, which might be close to an impossible task. You see, although the monetary equation of their volunteer time is impressive, it in no way measures the impact they have on our community.
Let’s look at a 4-H club leader for example. They spend four to 10 hours a month planning meetings, holding meetings, getting supplies together for the meetings, communicating with their club families, and taking care of paperwork and other necessities. That may sound like a lot of busy work, and it can be, but the real reward is still to come. Let’s say at this month’s club meeting, they are making marshmallow rockets. The club leader has the curriculum, worksheets, materials such as marshmallows, chocolate drops, gum drops, and toothpicks, ready to go.
He or she leads the youth through a talk about rocket ships and the different parts of a ship, they draw a picture and label the parts, then they get to build one with the marshmallows. All the while, youth are talking, asking and answering questions, sharing a picture of their creation with their family — because, duh, they ate the one they built — and learning about being an astronaut.
You might be saying, “Great, the child learned to play with their food.” You wouldn’t be wrong, but the child also learned new words, learned and practiced new communication methods, got excited about engineering and careers, and found out they can have fun and accidentally learn stuff along the way. Learning to discover, build, and explore, and having these skills for a lifetime, that’s an impact that is hard to measure and more important than money.
Imagine, each of our clubs have six to 20 members. Our adults impact each member’s life in a variety of positive ways. Impacting the adults of tomorrow — that’s what our 4-H volunteers do, and money just doesn’t quite measure that impact.
Shea Ann DeJarnette is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu.