KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Christmas is the time of giving and the members of the 4-H Junior Leaders are continuing their annual tradition of teaming up with Combined Community Services to participate in the Adopt-A-Family program.
Mindy Wise, 4-H youth development educator, visits Combined Community Services and looks through the stories of the families in need to choose one or two families. Depending on the group’s funds, she tries to choose around five or six children, from babies to teens, to adopt for Christmas. Wise mentioned, “This was my favorite event when I was a kid in the club so I made a point of keeping the tradition when I took over.” She also tries to make sure they purchase a gift the entire family can use such as towels or a crock pot.
Both Wise and the treasurer meet with the Junior Leaders to determine how much money is available to donate and spend on their adopted families. This money comes from a variety of fundraisers throughout the year including running a concessions booth at the Kosciusko County fair.
In her second year as a Junior Leader, Bailey Stutzman, an eighth-grader at Edgewood Middle School, explained each child in the family has lists telling their sizes and interests to aid in the shopping venture. Bailey described her feelings about participating in the program each year, stating, “Adopt-A-Family helps provide the families with a Christmas so they can be happy during this time of year, too.”
The members will split into teams and make a game of the shopping trip and then return to the Purdue Extension Kosciusko County office to wrap the presents and enjoy hot chocolate. This fellowship and competition “makes it enjoyable for us also,” Bailey explained.
In fact, the primary fundraiser for the club, the fair concession stand, is Bailey’s favorite activity. She goes on to say, “It’s special to me to see the impact on the kids and develop my leadership skills. We also do it in the FFA and at my church. To see their faces glowing makes the holiday season better.”
As a senior at Wawasee High School, Lacey Helfers has been participating in Adopt-A-Family for six years. For Lacey it’s all about helping the children within the community. She commented, “It’s a way for me to give back to the community. It helps me connect during the holiday season which is special to them and us. I want to be a teacher so it’s great seeing kids helping kids.”
The participating members completed their shopping trip to Meijer Monday, Dec. 18. Between two and three hours are spent shopping for and then wrapping the presents. Normally a brief present wrapping tutorial is necessary prior to commencing the wrapping of the presents.
Members of the Junior Leaders also volunteered to assist the Leesburg 4-H Club with setting out the lanterns along the streets of Leesburg for the Leesburg Candelaria.
The club also cares for the memorial garden at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds. As the head of the committee, this is Lacey’s favorite activity since it helps to give her additional leadership experience.
The 4-H Junior Leaders have approximately 29 members enrolled and between 15 and 20 active members. It is available to children in seventh grade through 12th grade with no prior 4-H experience required. It helps students develop leadership skills, learn time management, help the community, practice public speaking and earn community service hours, which can then be used toward scholarships.