April is the month that we celebrate National Volunteer Week. Have you thanked the volunteers in your life lately? Extension staff often seek to remind 4-Hers and their families to thank the volunteers they work with in the local program. It is no exaggeration to state that the 4-H program in Putnam County, or anywhere else for that matter, would not exist as we know it without volunteers. With that said, it is important that local residents and community leaders know how important volunteers are and where they might serve.
Foremost, there is a huge diverse opportunity for 4-H volunteers. Some volunteers serve for decades while others serve a year, intermittently and then come back serving in various specific program areas. In 2020, there were 196 Putnam 4-H volunteers, an increase of nine from the previous year. Moderate turnover for the program seems healthy to have continuity and ability to stay fresh. There were 24 new volunteers while 15 departed in 2020 after previously serving.
How or where can one serve as a volunteer in the local 4-H program? First, one should contact either Mark Evans or Kim Beadles in the Purdue Extension Putnam County office as Extension staff must approve all volunteers through a process that involves an application, background check and discussion of program needs. There are years where there are ample volunteers in some areas while there are needs in other subject matter areas.
One of the most creative and broadly open areas to serve include SPARK projects or clubs. SPARK as the name indicates is meant to “spark” an interest in youth regarding a specific topic or skill. 4-H exists to provide a learning experience and by its very nature should be designed as a fun way to learn. About any skill that a caring, adult volunteer may have could be implemented into a successful SPARK program. Past examples include plumbing/Do it Yourself, Indiana Pioneers/Bicentennial, Horse & Pony, LEGO Robotics, and nature. For ideas, other counties have had bicycle trail riding, campfire cooking, blacksmithing, gaming, wild game meat prep, fishing, and more as idea generators. Basically, if you have a skill or trade you would like to share, you could really make a significant difference in a young person’s life and help provide continuity to the art, skill or trade that you personally possess. How neat is that!
SPARK projects or clubs must be a minimum of 6 hours of instruction and provide a concluding opportunity to share or demonstrate the learned skills. Therefore, this is an option for 4-H completion and involvement that can be short term and still fit in with other family, athletic or school activities.
There are also other options to serve as a 4-H volunteer in the more traditional ways of a club leader. Some are general clubs whereas others are project based (i.e. specific topic like Dog Club, Horse & Pony, Archery, Shooting Sports, etc.) There are also opportunities for project-based superintendents. For example, if one likes crafts, one could be a superintendent and conduct one or more craft related workshops to teach youth in a role as a craft superintendent.
Visit our homepage at www.extension.purdue.edu/putnam or you can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 765.653.8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
April 27 – Best Practices for Herbs, Virtual on Zoom at 12 pm, pre-register at
May 1 – 7th Annual Master Gardener Plant Auction, 10 am, Fairgrounds Goat Barn, pre-
register at: https://tinyurl.com/PutMGAuction
May 3 – Gardening Practices to Improve Soil Health, Virtually on Zoom at 1:00 pm, register at https://tinyurl.com/WIAWebinars21
May 4 – Forage Program, Virtual on Zoom at 9 am, register at
May 4 – Cicada Watch 2021, Virtual on Zoom at 7 pm, Join virtually at https://tinyurl.com/PutnamMG3
May 4 – Best Practices for Cucumbers, Squash, Melons, Virtual on Zoom at 12 pm, pre-
register at https://tinyur.com/digdeeper21
May 8 – Sheep/Goat tagging for 4-H, 8-10 am; Fairgrounds.
May 15 – All 4-H livestock must be enrolled in 4honline. Hard deadline to exhibit.
May 17 – Beware! Toxic Plants Are Out, Virtual on Zoom at 12 pm, register