The Thanks of Christmas

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My first article this year was about telling your 4-H story. To that end, I received several wonderful stories of how 4-H positively changed people’s lives. Now, after reading those through the year, I am reflecting on how grateful I am for all the blessings this program has brought to me and others.

I am grateful to all those who shared their 4-H stories with me. Blessed for all the youth who took part in our programs. Grateful to their parents who pushed them to try new things and see it through to the end. Beyond thankful for all those volunteers who gave their time, expertise, patience, and money to help these youth experience new things and gain skills that will serve them all their lives. Every day, I am in awe of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Robeson County staff, who go above and beyond for all families, from all walks of life, to impact their lives in positive ways.

At our annual 4-H Youth Achievement Night, we recognized almost 150 youth. Youth who, combined, gave back more than 1,000 hours in service to our county. It might have been through volunteering, a coat, food, or sock drive. Maybe they helped clear folks’ yards or helped neighbors clean up after the storm. It doesn’t matter how old, all our youth took pride in helping someone else. That pride also showed in their end-of-year project; our youth collected hundreds of pounds of food for the BackPak Pals program here in Robeson County. That program, run by Communities in Schools (CIS), ensures that no student goes hungry. It is hard to do anything when you are hungry, especially learn. This program sends children home with food over the weekend to help them stay strong and focused and not have to worry about where their next meal comes from. That backpack has superpowers for a child. Imagine how our youth feel knowing they are making a difference for someone at their school, a student like them. It is a simple program that impacts them deeply and, hopefully, encourages them to be change agents for the rest of their lives.

I am especially grateful for these change agents. They are our future, and we know they want to make the world a better place. As part of 4-H Youth Achievement Night, we wanted them to express gratitude. In their packets, they received a thank-you letter from our 4-H staff and a blank handmade (by one of our parents) 4-H thank-you note card. We asked them to write a note to someone who has helped or inspired them – a teacher, church member, or even 4-H volunteer – and let them know how much their efforts mean to them. You never know; you may get one of those cards, and I am here to tell you, no matter how they say it, the thank you warms your heart on the coldest of days. I know, because our staff received two thank you cards that night. We have them under our office tree because they were the best presents we could have ever received.

So, as you sit down to celebrate, remember to not only count but share your blessings this Holiday season.

For more information, contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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