4-H and FFA Members Lend Talents to COVID-19 Fight

( Barbie Ford )

In this time of uncertainty and changes beyond our wildest imaginations, there’s no better way to use some of your free time than to help others and spread a little compassion. Images of nursing home residents waving to their loved ones outside their windows, front-line healthcare workers in need of masks, and children without their most important meal of the day – school lunch have been flooding my feed. 

During a time like this, I’m thankful for the 4-H and FFA experiences that our family has been able to draw upon. When crisis hits, when problems come our way, we’ve learned that one of the best ways to deal is to serve others and look for ways to bring a little light into the world. 

Here are some ways 4-H and FFA members are responding to the needs of our country right now that might just inspire you to try it yourself. There’s no age limit on service and loving others.

1.    Make masks for the healthcare industry.
For Peighton Ford, 13, using her 4-H sewing skills has been a great way to spend some of her extra time now to serve her aunt, a pharmacist who comes in contact with sick people every day. 

“It was an easy way to make something important and useful,” says Peighton, a 4-H member from Washington County, Iowa. “The mask is really easy and fast to make. I enjoyed using my ‘hands for larger service” which we talk about all the time. I plan to use this as a personal development project for the county fair this year.”

Peighton’s brother, Preston, 9, also joined in on the fun. He said his favorite part was cutting out the fabrics. They were able to use scraps from pajama pants he had outgrown, being a good steward of resources along the way.

Check out the pattern they used with step-by-step directions.

Preston Ford cuts fabric to make masks for his aunt, a pharmacist.

2.    Pick up trash in your neighborhood. 
Can you think of somewhere in your neighborhood that has litter and trash in it? While it may not be your job, there are lots of good reasons to clean it up, says Kelly Estes, a leader for Philo 4-H Friends in Champaign County, Ill. Not only is it where we live, but as part of a community, it is our responsibility to do our part to make it a better place for others, she says.

As a mother of two, she knows this unexpected time at home opens up opportunities for hands-on learning. To help her club members gain environmental awareness and some outdoor physical activity, their club is organizing a 30-minute trash pickup challenge. 

“As a club, we strive to serve our community through different projects,” Estes says. “This project is intended to increase environmental awareness while getting our club members active and outdoors. During this time when social distancing is critical, we encourage participants to maintain current recommendations to help keep themselves, their family and community safe.”

Kaylee and Ashlyn Estes pick up trash to help clean up their rural road.

3.    Send letters of encouragement.
When we realized one of our favorite activities of the year – 4-H Day at Maple Point Assisted Living Facility – would cease to happen this April, we were quite disappointed at our house. Our daughter, Olivia, has organized talent shows, Bingo/game days, blanket-making projects and 4-Hers interviewing residents about their lives which ultimately resulted in posters Olivia made to foster more conversation and connection on a special wall at Maple Point. 

She decided to get the ball rolling to engage the Sadorus 4-H All-Stars club in sending letters, cards, pictures, drawings, anything they could think of to bring a smile to the faces of our friends that we cannot visit at this time. 4-Hers worked to send at least one card to every resident in the past week. Since then, more cards have followed. 

“Imagine that you are talking to them and write it down. They love to hear what is going on in your life, so tell them about school, sports, 4-H, etc. Maybe you could share how what you have been doing lately is different from what you planned on doing,” Olivia says. “Asking questions is another way to engage with the residents. For example, tell them your favorite food and then ask them what their favorite food is. It means so much to them to know that someone else is caring about them and it will just brighten their day to hear about you!”

This idea works for anyone but consider who may be at need now and not able to get out or receive guests.

Harper Shike works on "artwork" to share with residents at a local assisted living facility.
We challenge you to join in on one of these efforts to serve others now. We’d love to feature your kindness in an upcoming PORK story. Tag your photos #PORKdifference.

Peighton Ford makes masks for healthcare workers.

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