Pam Babbitt

Babbitt shows commitment to local and state 4-H programs

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Pam Babbitt of Muskegon County

Pam Babbitt of Muskegon County.

Although she wasn’t involved in 4-H as a youth, Pam Babbitt of Muskegon County has been giving her time, talent and treasure to 4-H for nearly 50 years. Babbitt first became a 4-H leader in 1969 and her involvement grew from there. She joined the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees in 1985 and in her 35 years on the board, Babbitt has been a committed donor and advocate for growing 4-H resources across the state.

“I’ve always enjoyed being involved with 4-H,” she said. “Your reward as a volunteer is seeing the kids achieve.”

Babbitt loves 4-H, which is why she continues to give back to Michigan 4-H.

“I can see the need and know others can benefit from the donations I make,” she said. “I do it because I’m able to.”

Babbitt has supported 4-H in a variety of ways over the years including gifts to State 4-H Awards, the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens, Kettunen Center and the 4-H Annual Fund. During the Vision 2021 Campaign for Kettunen Center, she sponsored a room in Birch Lodge, a Red Oak room and contributed to the Capstone Campaign. She also sponsored a room in the new Gerstacker Wing of Cedar Lodge and was the winning bidder on the Garfield 4-H print during the 4-H Centennial Gala in 2002.

Most recently, Babbitt’s gifts have supported the Muskegon County 4-H Endowment Fund.

“Muskegon County 4-H had a goal to try to raise $50,000 for matching funds. It was an idea that I had that my support should go to this fund to help towards that goal,” Babbitt said. “So they could have matching funds to make the county 4-H grow and expand.”

Qualifying gifts to the participating county 4-H endowments were matched 1:1 by the Michigan 4-H Foundation, ultimately doubling donors’ gifts to grow local 4-H endowments. These investments will provide on-going support for 4-H program delivery in local communities for generations to come. The match opportunity would not have been possible without investments from match pool donors to provide the matching funds. The county endowment match opportunity ended Dec. 31, 2018.

Babbitt became a Michigan 4-H Foundation trustee 35 years ago, making her the longest serving member of the board. Trustees are volunteers who serve as community advocates for 4-H and lead the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Trustees manage foundation policies and operations with oversight of staff members and work on committees developed to facilitate foundation operations.

Babbitt recalled how she became a Michigan 4-H Foundation trustee.

“I was president of the Muskegon County 4-H Council. Our 4-H agent at the time asked me if I’d be interested in serving on the Michigan 4-H Foundation’s board. I didn’t think I qualified, but he assured me the foundation was seeking women in business. Then the foundation’s president at the time interviewed me and I joined the board – that was in 1985,” Babbitt said. “I didn’t quite understand all that it was about, but now I think I’m the longest serving trustee on the board.”

Babbitt has served terms as Michigan 4-H Foundation president, vice president, immediate past president and treasurer and chaired the foundation’s Personnel Committee for over a decade.

“I can see the value of it in young people’s lives across the state. I enjoy Kettunen Center and the training quality that offered at Kettunen,” Babbitt said. “It’s a nice place to visit and it’s nice to be a part of it.”

“1971 was the first time I was at Kettunen Center. It was for a 4-H Food and Nutrition workshop. The center was very different than what it is now – with an A, B and C lodge, that’s what they were called back then. It’s been a joy to see how Kettunen Center has changed.”

“Over the years I attended a variety of 4-H workshops including craft, FOLKPATTERNS, citizenship, leadership. I enjoyed going to them.”

Although Babbitt was not involved in 4-H as a youth, she became a 4-H leader in 1969, 50 years ago.

“A neighbor invited my kids to a meeting and to join their 4-H club. My kids were five and six at the time,” Babbitt said. “My son and daughter were both involved in 4-H until they graduated high school and went to college – and I stayed in 4-H.”

“That first year they did a stamp collection. The next year my neighbor asked if I’d like to teach the kids knitting and the Needle Beatles 4-H Club just kept growing.

“At one time we had 40 members. We’ve done sewing, baking, macramé, string art, gift wrapping – one year we even made Cabbage Patch dolls.”

As a 4-H volunteer, she attended 4-H Exploration Days, Kettunen Center 4-H workshops and a variety of other statewide events. For many years, she also served as a member of the Muskegon County 4-H Leaders Council, helped out with the Muskegon County fair and judged local competitions.

4-H also has deep roots in her family. Babbitt’s late husband, Ed, was a 4-H alumnus and a 4-H volunteer. She recalled him helping 4-H members build a car. “My son still gets out his 4-H car every once in a while,” she said.

When her husband was very ill, a local person asked her if she would be interested in building a garden on a section of property she and her husband owned in downtown Muskegon. After her husband passed in 2004, she approved the garden plans and in 2005, dedicated the Heritage Memorial Garden in Ed’s memory. After the dedication, Babbitt received numerous inquiries from others interested in sponsoring memorial benches. To date the garden has 30 memorial benches, two fountains – one each for Ed and Pam – and a gazebo, frequently used for wedding photos.

“My husband was in the first 4-H Emerald Clover Society class and the stone marking his memorial fountain is from the Emerald Clover Society. When the company was working on the wall for Kettunen Center, they did a sample engraving and that stone now marks the fountain in his memory,” she explained.

Although Babbitt isn’t a leader of the Needle Beatles any longer, she still remains active with her local community, especially with the Heritage Memorial Garden. She is also a member of Rotary Club, the Woman’s Division Chamber of Commerce, Milwaukee Clipper board treasurer, and serves on a variety of committees for these organizations.