- Author: Donovan Hill
- Author: Kathleen Mowdy
In November 2018, the worst fire in California history, the Camp Fire, devastated the towns of Paradise, Magalia, Pulga, and Concow. Over 13,000 homes were destroyed and 85 people died. From the first day of the tragedy, our local Butte County 4-H members were involved in responding to this community crisis in many ways—such as caring for displaced animals, and donating food and shelter to affected families. Our team of two Oroville Foothill 4-H Club members, Opal and Donovan, and a Durham 4-H Club member, Skylar, decided to expand our work to address the psychological and emotional recovery of the fire survivors. The culmination of our work was captured in a video by 4-H Alum Spencer Hill (see video at bottom of article).
Three months before the fire, Opal had lost her home to an electrical fire. She felt strongly that her recovery began when she was able to work on a collaborative project to help others. Opal inspired us to have our project benefit the survivors of the Camp Fire, providing opportunities for survivors to join with other Butte County residents to connect as a community.
Donovan and Skylar are musicians and know the power of music to bring comfort and connection. Our team loved the idea of recruiting community members to work in small teams to build personalized wind chimes to be given as gifts of peaceful and healing music. In the Camp Fire, the wind spread the fire and caused destruction, but the forces of nature are also restorative. The sound of the wind blowing through the chimes is beautiful and soothing.
Woodstock Chimes generously donated 125 “Bells of Paradise” wind chimes to the project.
We developed a nomination process to choose the recipients of the wind chimes. We started with the members of the Pine Ridge 4-H Club from Paradise. Each person was asked to “pass on the gift” so the nominations would create a linked chain of connections through the community. We invited them to nominate their relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, caregivers and first responders using an online form we created. Each nomination included a short story about the family, inspirational word charms to include, favorite color for bead selection, and the names of the family members to be written on the chime sail.
Again starting with 4-H, we held several “build events” with Butte County 4-H members and their families. We also arranged to bring the project to the after-school programs at Palermo Middle School in Palermo and Sycamore Middle School in Gridley. With the help of our 4-H adult volunteer leader, Wayne Hill, we facilitated team-building sessions with the students. We read the family stories shared by the nominators aloud. The students chose to build the chimes for the families that they connected with based on the stories. Reflecting on the stories of the recipients, the kids created unique and beautiful decorations on the envelopes for the gift cards that were included with the chimes. Many students added pictures and messages of hope and rebuilding.
All phases of this project have been eye-opening, but none as much as the giving phase. We met with recipients wherever they were - in Paradise, Oroville, Gridley, Chico, Magalia and beyond. We also involved many of the nominators. who appreciated the opportunity to deliver the gifts. An unexpected benefit of our project has been the excitement of the nominators, who were eager to assist us. Personally putting each gift into the hands of the recipient was the most rewarding part of the project. The emotions are overwhelming for everyone involved.
This project has done everything we hoped it would:
- We provided a way for our community to connect with people who experienced the most destructive wildfire in California history.
- With the help of Woodstock Chimes, we gave a gift of healing music to 125 families.
- We gave over 100 nominators a way to share a special gift with people they love.
- We provided a meaningful team-building experience to over 60 kids at local middle schools.
This project has changed each of us in ways we did not expect. We look forward to opportunities to share what we have learned with other 4-H clubs and fire recovery projects.
Video: 4-H Peaceful Music Wind Chime Project
At the Butte County 4-H Awards night on October 19, 2019, this original music video by Spencer Hill, a 4-H alum, was presented for this very special 4-H Emerald Star project benefiting the Camp Fire survivors.
- Author: Elizabeth Sugarman
We are having a great time in D.C. celebrating Margaret “Sissy"Sugarman from Olivenhain Valley 4-H, earning the Congressional Award Gold Medal. Congressman Mike Levin presented her with the Gold Medal in a medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
The Congressional Award
The Congressional award is the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a civilian recognizing achievement, initiative and service in America's youth, ages 14-23. The Award provides a unique opportunity for young people to set and achieve personally challenging goals that build character and foster community service, personal development, and citizenship. To earn a Congressional Award, participants set and achieve individual goals in four program areas: Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.
Recognizing that children in her community are disconnected from animals, agriculture, and nature, Margaret “Sissy” Sugarman organized and led tours and classes at her farm and at local schools promoting agriculture, beekeeping, and connection with animals. Her pollinator education program, “The Honeybee Road Show,” earned national recognition from the American Agri-Women Foundation. Sissy also served at a Veteran's camp in Alaska, Camp Battle Dawgs, which uses sled dogs and other outdoor activities to help veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries reintegrate back into every day life. Currently, Sissy is connecting people to animals and agriculture by hosting veteran groups, disabled adults and youth groups for free Goat Yoga classes at her family farm in Olivenhain.
Sissy was furthered recognized as a "STEM Star"
Senator Ron Wyden presented Sugarman with the added distinction of being a S.T.E.M. Star for her Honey Bee Road Show initiative. Ray Kerins from Bayer, a national 4-H partner, presented her with her STEM Star achievement pin.
The Honey Bee Road Show is a program Sissy developed after growing up learning about bees in 4-H. Sissy had cared for her bees on her family farm and found them to be a source of endless fascination. She has hosted hundreds of groups of children on tours to her family farm and was always surprised to encounter children who were afraid of bees or had no appreciation for bees. Sissy created the Honey Bee Road Show as a way to teach schoolchildren about bees and their vital role in our world. Bees are our #1 pollinator and they need our help!
Sissy took her program to elementary schools and did many presentations at the Encinitas Farm Lab, which is an ecology center run by our local school district. Sissy taught the children all about the inner workings of the beehive and invited children from the audience to join in her presentation in a starring role by acting out the different roles of the honey bees.
“Children are so eager to make a connection with animals. Being a part of that joy and discovery is absolutely magical.” ~Sissy Sugarman
The model of leadership, service, and giving back to the community that Sissy learned from her selfless 4-H leaders was the inspiration for her program.
Sissy's 4-H skills came in handy. Of course, she learned so much about bees in her beekeeping project, but her years in the sewing project came in handy as she crafted and sewed costumes for the children to wear in their bee hive skit. And all those years of presentations and demonstrations paid off, as her public speaking skills were vital to holding the attention of 60 2nd graders at each presentation!
Sissy plans to continue her program locally and hopefully take what she has learned to Africa in the near future. She hopes to intern in a program called Elephants and Bees which would combine her experience with pollinator education with her passion for elephant conservation. You can learn more about that at http://elephantsandbees.com/
Sissy's community service work and links to news articles highlighting her work can be found at: http://www.sugarsweetfarm.com/community-service.html
- Author: Emily Jackson
Siskiyou County is one of California's most rural counties. Forest fires and other natural disasters are often a concern for our communities. Many of our residents own pets and livestock, but we lack the agency resources to help with pet/livestock emergency evacuation.
With fire season already starting, Siskiyou County's Hi 4-H project wanted to help people prepare for emergency evacuations that included plans for pets and livestock. It was important that we inform the public about how to prepare for a disaster. To do this, we created PEEP (Pet Emergency Evacuation Plan) pamphlets.
The main objective of this project was to inform and teach 4-Hers and the public about how to keep pets and livestock safe in case of evacuation. We worked with Siskiyou County's Animal Control and used resources from the Office of Emergency Services (OES) while we researched on our own in preparation for this project. We learned about important things to have prepared if animals need to be evacuated, and what to do if animals need to be left behind or let loose. In our pamphlets, we included information about how to evacuate small and large animals, important items to have prepared in case of an emergency, and the importance of pre-planning.
How we're sharing the information
Our pamphlets will be handed out at the Siskiyou Golden Fair and a PDF version will be available on our county's Animal Control and Office of Emergency Services (OES) websites. We have also given presentations on our project and supplied information pamphlets to local 4-H clubs, as well as shared our project with attendees of this year's California Focus conference.
After completing this project, we have gained knowledge about how to evacuate both large and small animals and we know that it is our responsibility to make sure we have a plan. Our animals are counting on us. We hope that our project will help 4-Hers and members of our community be prepared for future disasters.
Don't forget your PEEP's in an emergency!
- Author: Donovan Hill
Who wouldn't want to spend a week at a hotel with a pool? Until last August, I never could have imagined feeling anything but relaxation and happiness at a hotel. But when the Ponderosa Fire started near our family ranch in Feather Falls, my parents, grandparents and I found ourselves evacuated, sitting in our hotel rooms with only the clothes we had been wearing the day the fire started. For more than a week, we waited inside with the windows shut against the smoke, trying not to worry.
My family was very lucky to be able to evacuate and very fortunate that CalFire was able to stop the fire about 900 feet from our ranch. When we finally drove home, we were shocked to see the devastation in our mountain community. We immediately wanted to do something to help.
Every member of our 4-H Club also had been affected directly or indirectly by the wildfires of 2017.
Oroville Foothill 4-H Fire Recovery Project
Kickoff event: Erosion Control Project
For our kickoff event on October 14, 2017, we volunteered to help the Yankee Hill Fire Safe Council on an erosion control project in the Wall Fire. We visited three properties and spread rice straw on some steeper slopes to prevent soil erosion and mudslides. The homeowners were thrilled with the help and materials they received.
Spring project: Tree Planting
For the spring, Oroville Foothill 4-H Fire Recovery Project planned three tree-planting dates in early 2018. Then, we discovered that there is a shortage of tree seedlings because of all the fires in California this year. After talking to families at the Mountain Springs Grange in Feather Falls who had received some fir and pine seedlings, but no other native trees, we realized that we have thousands of small cedar and other conifer “wildlings” on our ranch that we could transplant to neighboring properties that burned.
On February 24, 2018, we transplanted 300 cedars to Bruce and Leslie Steidl's place that burned in the Ponderosa Fire. During a lunch break, Leslie Steidl talked to us about women in science and her career as a geologist and archaeologist. We learned that the land we replanted has been occupied by people for at least 6000 years.
Join Oroville Foothill 4-H's Fire Recovery Project!
Oroville Foothill 4-H also is extending invitations to other service organizations to join us in the Fire Recovery Project, including Boy Scouts, Sea Cadets and the YMCA. The more volunteers we have, the more we can do to help our communities recover from the devastation of the wildfires of 2017.
We look forward to many years of watching our local forests grow and return to the beautiful life-supporting ecosystem that we enjoy.
- Author: Suzanne Morikawa
4-H is launching an annual True Leaders in Service initiative in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Month. True Leaders in Service, a month-long community service activation, officially kicked-off the first day of April, and will culminate with the National 4-H Day of Service on Saturday, April 29.
Thousands of 4-H'ers will venture out into their communities throughout the month of April to do what 4-H'ers do best: lead in service to tackle community challenges and help meet the needs of others.
The first National 4-H Day of Service on April 29 will take place in every county across the country. 4-H members, adult volunteers and friends will help improve their communities by adopting a service project. These projects can be done as individuals, as an entire county 4-H program, or anything in between. No matter the project, this is a day that will make a difference!
California 4-H has a history of True Leaders in Service
California 4-H'ers do outstanding projects in their communities. We have had the Million Trees Project, started by a 4-H'er from San Mateo County. Originally a club project, it grew to an international campaign because of the sheer magnitude of numbers!
Elliot from San Joaquin County got involved in several other service-oriented organizations and started up Beautify Stockton, where he organized monthly clean-ups in different areas of his hometown in order to make it look better and help residents feel more proud of where they live. Unsung Hero: Elliott Stenzler; RecordNet.com
Incorporating service projects into other activities
As noted in our recent blog post, Health Grows in 4-H, 4-H'er Christian incorporated service projects to provide lunches for the homeless and smile dolls for children with cleft palates into the Southern Area Healthy Living Summit. Our 4-H'ers are good at finding ways to support the community in different ways!
Even the holiday projects, such as delivering pajamas and presents to children in the hospital, are making a difference in the community.
What to do next
We encourage all 4-H clubs, members and volunteers to plan a service project in April and register it on the National 4-H website at 4-H.org/true-leaders-in-service. Your project will be added to the national map to show how 4-H is supporting communities all across the nation. Go to our True Leaders in Service resource page for resources for planning and promoting your event - and don't forget to share it on social media! Use #TrueLeaders in your posts and tag California 4-H so we can share it too./h2>/span>/h4>/h4>/h4>/h2>