4-H Volunteers and the Volunteer State

In Tennessee, nearly 3,000 adults volunteer their time with 4-H. Volunteers are critical to the state’s largest youth organization, helping to deliver programs, guidance, and encouragement.

The flip side of the clover-- someone in 4-H in their youth who now gives their time to the organization as an adult.

According to David McDaniel, “It’s a family thing. You help out the kids and you keep them on the right track as far as 4-H.”

McDaniel of Knoxville has a half-century of 4-H horse-in, riding, and showing these beautiful animals as a boy, and now passing that knowledge to a younger generation. Here he volunteers at the recent Clover Classic Show in Harriman.

“Of course, everybody wants to win, and I want them to win but everybody can’t win first place. To me, I’m the one that’s out there when they have a bad day. I’m grandpa they lean on.”

Mr. McDaniel is 1 of 2,800 statewide Tennessee volunteers for 4-H.

UT Extension employees served as 4-H agents in every county, but they rely on volunteers to deliver many programs-- and adults working with youth is critical to the organization’s effectiveness.

“They have a passion for youth that sometimes is-- when we capture that passion, it really does push the program forward,” Tennessee 4-H’s Daniel Sarver explains. “They bring an excitement.”

Two key benefits of volunteerism. First, just the work these volunteers do, their contribution, and expertise, and the young 4-Hers witness a volunteer in action. They learn how important it is to donate your time and hopefully, that encourages the kids to become volunteers themselves someday.

That was the case for Matthew Hibdon, who grew up in 4-H in Warren County and now works for MTSU.

He now volunteers for 4-H judging and consumer decision-making events, especially working with high school and college students.

“The essential nature of volunteerism was instilled in me as a 4-Her, and so now I get to be a part of the state and national level to helping youth have similar experiences to what I had,” Hibdon states. “Making sure that when they’re at a competition, always make sure they know they can relax and breathe, try to take the pressure off because I’ve been in their shoes-- not too long ago.”

It is sometimes said that 4-H is an investment in future leaders, and we could add future volunteers to that notion.

Now a current generation of volunteers are hard at work and their willingness to give is welcomed and appreciated.