County 4-H endowments are making a difference in local communities

three 4-H youth
three 4-H youth

The Michigan 4-H Foundation has a goal to raise $5,000 to grow 4-H county endowments on #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving.

Giving Tuesday image with three 4-H youth

From 2013-2018, 31 Michigan county 4-H programs participated in the Michigan 4-H Foundation’s county 4-H endowment match campaign to raise perpetual support for local 4-H programs by establishing and growing county 4-H endowments.

During the campaign period, the Michigan 4-H community including clubs, parents, volunteers, alumni and donors collectively came together to show their strong support of 4-H today and to sustain funding for the program well into the future through endowments.

To help continue to grow these funds for the future, the Michigan 4-H Foundation has set a #GivingTuesday goal to raise $5,000 to grow county 4-H endowments in a 24-hour period on Dec. 1, 2020. Learn more.

Counties with Michigan 4-H Foundation endowments include Allegan, Arenac, Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Chippewa, Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Houghton-Keweenaw, Ingham, Ionia, Iosco, Isabella, Kalkaska, Kent, Lapeer, Lenawee, Macomb, Mason, Midland, Montcalm, Muskegon, Oakland, Ogemaw, Osceola, Ottawa, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

Each of these county’s annual endowment investment earnings can provide general support for current 4-H program delivery, purchase or development of new program and learning materials, support for 4-H youth leadership experiences, participation fees or any future areas of great need to advance the county 4-H program.

For example, in St. Joseph County the endowment earnings supported a charter bus rental for 54 participants to attend 4-H Exploration Days in 2018. It also funded two fair events: a 4-H Year End Dance with 154 participants and a 4-H Fair Frenzy with 98 participants. The fair frenzy allowed staff to provide a fun event during fair week to get the youth to work as a team and to interact with one another on a social level. The dance is another opportunity to get youth to engage without social media and the competitive aspect of the fair.

“We were able to provide programs and services with the endowment earnings that we have struggled to provide without the additional funds,” said Eva Beeker, 4-H program coordinator in St. Joseph County. “Several of our 4-H youth would not have had transportation to Exploration Days and would not have attended without the bus funded through these funds.”

Additional examples of how 4-H endowment earnings are supporting general program needs in counties include:

  • Eaton County – funds have provided supplies and materials for the Eaton County 4-H Cloverbud Camp, lowering the cost of the camp to only $10 per youth. This reduced rate allowed the camp to be held at an affordable rate for families, especially those with financial hardships. The Eaton County 4-H Cloverbud Camp is a day camp that involves 20-30 youth ages 5-7 from 4-H and non-4-H members across the county and 15-20 teen leaders as camp counselors. Additionally, the planning committee is comprised of teens and adult volunteers. “The camp is a great opportunity to support our youngest 4-H members in their growth and keep them active in our program,” said Kristy Oosterhouse, 4-H program coordinator in Eaton County. “The support of the endowment funds is a great benefit to this event.”
  • Gratiot County – a portion has provided scholarships to educational events and supported new programming opportunities for virtual activities. In previous years, the endowment interest has provided funding to increase STEAM programming opportunities to underserved audiences through the 4-H STEAM AmeriCorps Program. Forty-nine new 4-H members were recruited to join at least one 4-H STEAM SPIN Club and 10 new 4-H SPIN Clubs were started. Five family engagement events were also held to further connect the families with the 4-H program and to recruit new members. Thirteen new volunteers were successfully recruited and vetted through the 4-H Volunteer Process. The endowment has also funded 4-H promotional activities like the 2019 Kid’s Day Exploration Tent at the Gratiot County Fair for Youth.
  • Ingham County – this support has helped fund and purchase supplies for an AmeriCorps volunteer and for the Ingham County 4-H Still Life Workshop, which welcomed more than 100 participants to explore a variety of 4-H project areas, with more than 40 different sessions being offered throughout the day. “Possible uses for the 2020-21 allocation include covering fair expenses and helping to facilitate remote programming opportunities for our 4-H youth and volunteers, among other uses that will allow us to further support 4-H programs in Ingham County,” said Eric Dobbrastine, 4-H program coordinator in Ingham County.
  • Ionia County – endowment interest provided scholarships for Ionia 4-H volunteers to attend 4-H skill-building workshops. Volunteers attending these workshops were able to gain knowledge and experience that they were able to bring back to their 4-H clubs and youth. Thanks to the Ionia County 4-H Endowment Fund, in 2018-19, our volunteer attendance to the Winterfest workshop was very high compared to other counties,” said John Duvall, 4-H program coordinator in Ionia County. “This allowed Ionia volunteers to be involved in a wide variety of sessions, allowing volunteers to bring back a wider variety of knowledge to 4-H youth!”
  • Muskegon County – the fund has provided scholarships to middle school youth to attend 4-H Exploration Days. “This increased youth leadership skills and had youth start thinking about college,” said Tonya Pell, 4-H program coordinator in Muskegon County. “Many of the youth who received scholarships to 4-H Exploration Days were first time attendees.”
  • Shiawassee County – funds provided educational materials for the 2018 4-H Camp Neyati, scholarships that allowed 10 youth to attend camp at no cost, materials for camp counselor trainings and transportation cost for youth to get to camp. “These funds provided the necessary materials needed to promote extended education for youth development,” said Nikki Hersch, 4-H program coordinator in Shiawassee County.
  • Washtenaw County – endowment interest provided funding for 4-H newsletter communications and general support for local 4-H program work.

Note that each county has its own process on how these funds are spent. Individual endowment donors are encouraged to reach out to county 4-H program coordinators for additional details on how these funds are helping to provide opportunities to 4-H youth in their area.

Learn more about how you can help grow county 4-H endowments on #GivingTuesday:

Photo of the five Pollard brothers standing infront of the Pollard Dairy barn.

Richard J. Pollard established the Dickinson County 4-H Endowment

Richard Pollard holding a Dahlia flower.

Richard J. Pollard

At 97 years old, Richard J. Pollard has created the Richard J. Pollard Dickinson County 4-H Endowment to support his local county program, Dickinson County, Mich., as he is grateful to 4-H for encouraging him to reach his potential.

Pollard was raised on a depression-era farm in Dickinson County where he was an active 4-H member. To this day, he recalls how much his 4-H leader impacted his life, teaching both he – and his fellow club members – about banking. He didn’t have money to open a bank account, so she gave him one dollar. He later paid her back. His 4-H leader also encouraged him to pursue a career.

Photo of the five Pollard brothers standing infront of the Pollard Dairy barn.

Pictured above is Richard Pollard (far right) and his younger brothers. This photo was taken in 1938 by his 4-H leader, Miss Lillian Solomonson, when she came to inspect his 4-H garden. It was taken at Pollard Dairy in Norway, Mich.

Pollard studied at Albion College, joined the navy in WWII, and later became a doctor. He was grateful to the navy and rejoined during the Korean War. After the war, he practiced medicine in Detroit, all while remaining active in the naval reserves until his early 60s.

The Dickinson County 4-H Endowment will provide an annual source of unrestricted revenue for Dickinson County 4-H. Funds may support everything from special 4-H projects, to sponsorships for 4-H learning experiences, trips and events.

“The Dickinson County 4-H Program is so thankful for Mr. Pollard’s generous commitment to building a stronger future for 4-H youth,” said Jessica Coron, MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator in Dickinson County. “His contribution will be a vital source of continued support for our local 4-H program. This gift will provide further educational opportunities and scholarships for 4-H youth in our community.  Additionally, it has the potential to enhance our current 4-H program. His support is greatly appreciated.”

An endowment is a fund that is permanently restricted – the corpus of the fund is invested and held intact, and the earnings from the fund are used for program support. Endowments provide a dependable and perpetual source of funding that, combined with other annual support, can help ensure that 4-H opportunities are available for all youth, especially those with financial barriers. To learn more about 4-H endowments, visit

A special thanks to our generous donors and #Mi4H community who together showed the power of 4-H for #GivingTuesday. Yesterday, 34 donors gave the gift of 4-H raising a total of $5,175 supporting to county 4-H endowments and other 4-H funds!

Congratulations to Sanilac, Ontonagon, Allegan and Arenac counties for each receiving a $250 bonus from a match donor for raising the most during yesterday’s fundraiser.

By donating on Giving Tuesday, donors help make the national day of giving an even bigger success. Gifts to 4-H will make life-changing opportunities possible for 4-H youth, both today and well into the future.

On behalf of Michigan’s 4-H youth and volunteers, thank you for giving the gift of 4-H on Giving Tuesday!

Did you miss out on giving back for Giving Tuesday? Give now to support county 4-H endowments or any other fund to support Michigan 4-H’ers today and for future generations!

Earl and Suzanne Threadgould

In 2016, Suzanne Threadgould created an endowment in honor of her husband’s life and career with Michigan 4-H. Recently, she made an IRA charitable required minimum distribution gift to grow the fund, increasing the impact for generations to come.

Earl and Suzanne Threadgould with a table of vegetables.
Earl and Suzanne Threadgould

Suzanne Threadgould established the Earl W. and Suzanne Threadgould Endowment for Ingham County 4-H with the Michigan 4-H Foundation in 2016 to honor her husband’s life and career with Michigan 4-H. Late last year, Suzanne expanded her gift, increasing the many ways the fund will benefit Ingham County 4-H’ers for years to come.

“My husband had been a 4-H youth agent at one time, and we were always involved with 4-H,” Suzanne Threadgould said. “4-H is so good for kids. I think it’s important for kids to get involved in 4-H.”

An endowment is a fund that is permanently restricted — the corpus of the fund is invested and held intact, and the earnings from the fund are used to support the 4-H program each year. Endowments provide a dependable and perpetual source of funding that, combined with other annual support, ensures that 4-H opportunities are always available for youth.

The Threadgould endowment provides annual support for Ingham County 4-H youth leadership and recognition. The fund may also be used to support out-of-county 4-H experiences for youth and to encourage and recognize 4-H youth engagement and leadership in Ingham County.

“I decided now would be the time to do it,” said Suzanne. “My husband always wanted to give back to 4-H.”

Earl was a long-time Wayne County 4-H member and earned his bachelor’s degree from the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. After college, he served in the Peace Corps, traveling to El Salvador to work with the Central American 4C program, the sister program to 4-H. Earl and Suzanne met and were married while serving in El Salvador. They returned to Michigan and Earl pursued a master’s degree, while Suzanne went back to earn her education degree, both from MSU.

Earl continued his service to 4-H by becoming a 4-H youth agent with MSU Extension in Ingham County for 25 years. He also served as president of the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff and helped facilitate hosting the National Association of 4-H Youth Agents Conference in Michigan in 1996. Earl was an avid gardener and market master of the Meridian Township Farmers Market for over 20 years. The Threadgoulds were well-known for Threadgould’s farm-fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Suzanne taught elementary school in Mason and Holt, Mich. mostly as a substitute teacher, but had a few longer-term positions over the years. She enjoyed working with children, and as such served for many years as the administrative 4-H volunteer leader of the East Alaiedon 4-H Club in Ingham County. The club boasted well over 50 members at times, including the Threadgould’s children, and 15 volunteer project leaders.

“We did conservation, entomology — my son was very into entomology at the time — as well as flowers and vegetables,” she recalled. “My daughter did sewing, although I didn’t lead it … I was the administrative leader for quite a while.”

“We had 50-60 4-H club members at one point. We always met at the Alaiedon Township Hall. It was a great place to meet. Our members exhibited their projects at the Ingham County Fair.”

After Earl passed away in 2011, Suzanne created the Earl Threadgould 4-H Scholarship Award in his memory with annual gifts. This award provides an annual post-secondary education scholarship to an Ingham County 4-H youth.

“Earl was very passionate about the 4-H youth in Ingham County,” said Glenda Weiss, Ingham County MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator. “Growing up in the 4-H program, I remember the encouragement he gave to strive toward goals such as state awards. This scholarship allows our current 4-H members to continue to reach their goals for their future.”

By creating the Threadgould endowment five years ago, Suzanne has ensured an annual source of income for the Threadgould Award and other support for Ingham County 4-H for generations to come.

Suzanne decided to increase her investment in Ingham County 4-H by growing the Threadgould endowment with an additional gift in December. She opted to make this additional investment through an IRA charitable required minimum distribution (RMD) gift, commonly called the IRA charitable rollover. This type of gift allows donors aged 70½ or older to donate to charity each year by transferring an amount directly from an IRA to a charity, such as the Michigan 4-H Foundation, and thereby reducing their taxable income for the current tax year.

“I needed to give some money away and it was to my advantage to make the gift,” said Suzanne. “I might even decide to do it again.”

Now by investing in, and growing the Threadgould endowment, Suzanne has ensured the fund will continue to have an impact on many generations of Ingham County 4-H youth. To date, 11 Ingham County 4-H youth have received the Threadgould Scholarship to pursue post-secondary education.

Learn more about giving to 4-Hendowments and IRA charitable rollover gifts.

A special thanks to our generous donors and #Mi4H community who together showed the power of 4-H for #GivingTuesday.

Yesterday, 36 donors gave to county 4-H endowments and other 4-H funds raising a total of $5,550 to support 4-H today and into the future!

These gifts will help grow and support 4-H opportunities today and for future generations.

By donating on Giving Tuesday, our donors have helped make the national day of giving an even bigger success. Gifts to 4-H will make life-changing opportunities possible for 4-H youth, both today and well into the future.

On behalf of Michigan’s 4-H youth and volunteers, thank you to all those who help 4-H GROW. Miss out on giving back for Giving Tuesday? Give now to support county 4-H endowments or any other fund to support Michigan 4-H’ers today and for future generations!