4-H organization receives substantial grants

4-H received about $208,000 from the McKnight Foundation to fund two of its programs.

Heather L. Mueller

While hauling hay and riding saddle, Minnesota youths learned to be leaders at the Minnesota 4-H state horse show, which ran Saturday through Monday near the St. Paul campus.

The Minnesota 4-H program receives public and private funding to create programs that help people aged 5 to 19 develop life skills, confidence and leadership abilities through hands-on learning.

In 2006, 4-H received two McKnight Foundation grants totaling about $208,000 to fund out-of-school programs and a youth transportation program, said McKnight Foundation spokesman Tim Hanrahan.

Larry Brugger, a 15-year 4-H volunteer from St. Cloud, said funding has been a struggle in past years, but 4-H has a “good-sized core” of volunteers.

“Minnesota is a pretty heavy-duty 4-H state,” Brugger said. “It’s just one of those things that they get into it and they have a lot of fun.”

Volunteers contributed about 1 million hours of service in 2005, according to the 4-H foundation annual report. This totals nearly $18.7 million worth of work.

Brugger said one of the high points of this weekend’s horse show was seeing a longtime competitor finally receive her first ribbon during her last year of 4-H participation.

“The whole county lit up,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good support from the counties.”

Brugger and his wife, Mary, began volunteering as a way to spend time with their children.

“You get involved with these things and it becomes your volunteer thing,” he said. “We try to teach the kids the value of giving back to the community and I think in some classes the adults learn it right along the way.

“It gets in your blood,” he said.

Brugger said many of the 4-H volunteers get sucked in because they find 4-H values make a difference in the lives of children.

“It’s fun watching the kids grow up,” he said. “Many of the kids will start off shy and not sure of themselves and by the time they get into high school their confidence is up.”

Brugger said 4-H has programs that extend well beyond animal projects.

“It’s not just cows and cookies anymore,” he said.

Brugger said that mechanical sciences, carpentry, aerospace science and art are also areas in which 4-H participants across Minnesota have won awards.

Associate Dean for Youth Development Dale Blyth said 4-H is a valuable program because it provides youths an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom through real experience.

Blyth said the program has shown a decrease in risk behaviors among participants and an increase in civic involvement.

The hands-on programs offered through 4-H don’t just keep kids out of trouble, he said. They can also interest participants in science when classrooms don’t.