Volunteering can make a significant difference in an individual's life or in a community or state. This year Louisiana 4-H added multiple opportunities to participate in various days of service, enabling youth and adults to make a greater impact on their community. Members and volunteers were able to volunteer for the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, the Louisiana 4-H Day of Service in December, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in January and the Global Youth Day of Service in April.
To help grow the Louisiana 4-H Days of Service program, specialists Meggan Franks and Kimberly Jones Williams collaborated to secure a grant from Youth Service America that would provide service-project funding to parish programs throughout Louisiana. These grant funds would help agents and volunteers develop and initiate community service and service-learning programs in all areas of the state.
In all, these service days resulted in 3,367 youth and adults giving a total of 7,366 hours to their communities, benefitting over 32,655 people. Throughout these projects, these young people gained critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, teamwork, creativity and innovation skills.
“Serving as a lead agency and being awarded the Youth Serve America grant made it possible to increase our statewide service days from one to four. In addition, it allowed a variety of service projects to be supported and celebrated," said Jones Williams, 4-H specialist and State Citizenship Board adviser.
Parishes that received grant funds for national days of service included Ouachita, Tangipahoa, Franklin, Livingston, Lincoln, Acadia, East Baton Rouge, Bienville, Red River and Sabine.
The Ascension Homegrown 4-H Club sewed pillow cases and gathered supplies for the Cajun Navy after Hurricane Laura.
Faith and Jerell Boykins deliver thank you cards to first responders in Caddo Parish.
East Baton Rouge Junior Leaders collected supplies for the Gardere Community Literacy Initiative.
The 2020 hurricane season resulted in at least five storms making landfall in Louisiana, breaking the state record for the most strikes in a single season. In the aftermath of the record storm season, several Louisiana regions sustained extensive damage. Louisiana 4-H responded by creating an educational program designed to teach youth throughout the state how to prepare their communities and families for a disaster situation. The educational program included a 31-page facilitator guide, an interactive self-paced Google Classroom, and a live 90-minute workshop for youth on disaster preparedness, disaster kit assembly and serving your community from home.
Through their participation in the program, 403 youth completed 18 unique community projects. As a result, members learned how to become better prepared in a disaster situation and what items need to be included in a disaster kit. They also learned to be confident in their skills to teach others about disasters. Furthermore, youth who participated improved their communication and critical thinking skills and had the opportunity to be creative.
Projects included making disaster kits, volunteering for disaster relief efforts, delivering supplies to hurricane victims, teaching youth and adults how to create disaster kits and home safety plans, writing letters to deployed military, showing appreciation for first responders, and sharing knowledge about disaster preparedness with members of the community.
Clockwise from top left: Jon-Patrick Couvillion, of Lafayette Parish, collected diapers for families in need after Hurricane Laura. East Baton Rouge Junior Leaders club members collected books for the LINE4LINE Community Reading Program. The Louisiana 4-H Citizenship Board created Geaux Bags Disaster Kits to be donated to the State Evacuation Shelter.
The first federal holiday designated as a national day of service is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is observed as the third Monday in January. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated throughout the United States to honor the life, teachings and legacy of King by engaging in community action. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened existing inequalities, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest. Volunteering on MLK Day provided an opportunity to unite Louisianians of all ages and backgrounds while building stronger communities.
In response to the diverse needs of communities across the state, Louisiana 4-H created the first Louisiana 4-H MLK Day of Service and enabled children of all ages to participate. The program featured a virtual MLK Day ceremony led by Louisiana 4-H National Conference delegates, LSU Collegiate 4-H members and alumni. In addition, it allowed youth to learn about the legacy of King and provided them with ways they could volunteer safely in their local community.
With the help of over 70 adult and youth leaders, more than 458 youth and adults participated in the first Louisiana 4-H Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service program. Projects benefited deployed soldiers, single mothers, local first responders, impoverished youth and families, local food pantries, youth and adults with disabilities, local schools and teachers, children in foster care and several other nonprofits that provided critical resources to those living in poverty.
As a result of the dedication and hard work of 4-H leaders and members in over 22 parishes, hundreds of books were donated, meals were served, cards were delivered, funds were raised and trees were planted in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Preston Parker, a 4-H member from Lincoln Parish, said, “Through participating in Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, I learned that even a small act of service can have a large impact.”
The program enabled youth to exercise critical thinking, communication, collaboration and teamwork skills and practice creativity and innovation. Moreover, youth reflected that they learned about diversity and how critical it is to serve others and make their communities a better place.