Each year, thousands of 4-H volunteers donate their time and energy to make their communities a better place to live. These volunteers will be among the millions across the country who were spotlighted during the 47th anniversary of National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, 2021.
This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is Celebrate Service, an opportunity to shine a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve. Points of Light, an organization dedicated to volunteer service, states that, “Volunteerism empowers individuals to find their purpose, to take their passion and turn it into meaningful change. When each of us, in our own way, answers the call to make a difference, we make progress in solving our most persistent problems, and create stronger communities and a more just society.”
The week provides an opportunity to celebrate the service of dedicated volunteers and the work they do to help AgriLife Extension identify the communities’ needs and share the educational resources of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Volunteers involve themselves in programs such as Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, Master Wellness, 4-H Youth Development, or on local committees focused on the specific areas such as agriculture, natural resources, family and community health, or youth development.
Currently, about 77 million Americans volunteer almost 7 billion hours of their time, talent, and effort to improve and strengthen their communities. With the value of volunteer time ($27.20 per hour) as established by the Independent Sector, these Americans are contributing approximately $187.7 billion to our nation through nonprofit organizations of all types. In 2020, 86,367 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Volunteers contributed 5,056,200 hours of service valued at $137,528,644.
The Texas 4-H Youth Development Program relies heavily on the work of volunteers. In 2020, more than 26,000 adult and youth volunteers contributed countless hours in various capacities to the 4-H youth in their Texas communities. In Parker County, 75 volunteers, both youth and adult, will serve as club leaders, project leaders, committee members, and in advisory capacities for the 4-H Youth Development Program in 2021.
“The Parker Co, 4-H program would not exist without the leadership and dedication of the volunteer leaders in our program. They make it happen,” Parker County Extension Agent Kayla Neill said. “It is the volunteer leaders that manage, supervise and help organize the 12 different clubs here in Parker County. It is the volunteer leaders that support the county 4-H program and make it possible to give up to a $10,000 scholarship to graduating seniors and it’s the volunteer leaders that serve as mentors and advisors to our young people, teaching them life skills that are so desperately needed.”
AgriLife Extension volunteers spend numerous hours working on tasks, such as leading educational programs, providing guidance and ideas regarding community needs, maintaining gardens, helping organize events at the county fair, helping a child with a 4-H project, or leading a project to serve the community.
“Helping with the Parker County 4-H program and especially the county fashion project, has brought my own family closer together,” volunteer Kristi Brantley said. “In addition to that, it has shown me that kids really do want to learn new things, and with that, learn new things not everyone has the opportunity to learn. It’s a honor to get to work with such great kids.”
AgriLife Extension volunteers are just one group of volunteers who are instrumental in carrying out the mission of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Volunteers are involved in every aspect of the Extension Service, including determining the needs of the local residents, planning and implementing programs to address these needs, securing resources, and evaluating programs.