2019-20 4-H Mini Grant Recipients Announced

Muskegon County 4-H Tech Wizards participants learning problem-solving while working alongside college staff members and students at Muskegon Community College.
Muskegon County 4-H Tech Wizards participants learning problem-solving while working alongside college staff members and students at Muskegon Community College.

The Michigan 4-H Foundation awarded over $14,000 in mini grants for the 2019-20 year to support local 4-H programs.

Each year, the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees approves the distribution of competitive grant funds to encourage development of innovative 4-H opportunities in local communities. For the 2019-20 program year, 4-H mini grants were awarded in five grant categories.

Michigan 4-H Legacy Grants

Michigan 4-H Legacy Grants, funded by the Michigan 4-H Legacy Fund endowment, encourage creativity and support the implementation of great ideas that promote positive youth development in communities.

Mini Grant_MuskegonTechWizards

The Muskegon County 4-H Tech Wizards Lakeshore Fab Lab experiences received a $1,000 grant to explore STEM fields through hands-on learning that will help equip youth for the workplace, college and trade-school opportunities. Youth will practice critical and creative thinking to build and solve problems while working alongside college staff members and students at Muskegon Community College.

The Mather Elementary Robotics Lego League 4-H Club in Alger County also received a $1,000 grant to help start an elementary robotics club in Munising. Students will be able to travel and attend events all around the Upper Peninsula, showcasing not only the team’s robot but also their hard work and dedication.

4-H Educational Garden Grants

Two 4-H Educational Garden Grants were funded by the Albert A. Albright Endowment for 4-H Plant Science and Gardening Education.

4-H “Dig the GIG” Experiential Gardening Program in Kent County received a $1,000 grant to build raised garden beds that will be cared for by community members, 4-H youth and students from the local school district. In addition, mobile garden kits will be created as a supplement resource for educational opportunities. These kits will provide the opportunity to teach others about gardening and create outreach opportunities.

Mason County’s Special Needs Gardening Program also received a garden grant to create a more versatile learning environment for all. The newly established garden will allow youth with cognitive and physical learning to learn how to grow and care for vegetable gardens and learn where their food comes from.

Collins 4-H Youth Horticulture Grant

The Collins 4-H Youth Horticulture Grant is funded by the William J. and Ruth D. Collins Endowment Fund to advance local 4-H club work in plant science and horticultural activities.

Roosevelt Elementary, McGrath Introduction Garden in Wayne County received a $350 grant to create a 4-H SPIN Club introducing elementary students to gardening. The garden will educate students on plant life cycles and teach students how to work together across their diversity gap. This garden will help students take ownership and pride in their hard work and bettering their school.

4-H On-Target Grants

Two On-Target county grants were funded by the Thomas H. Cobb Shooting Sports Fund to help enhance county 4-H shooting sports programs.

The Houghton-Keweenaw Copper Tips 4-H Archery Club received a $500 grant to help purchase supplies to help develop a rifle program. Copper Tips 4-H Archery Club already has more than 100 club members, and interest continues to grow. The grant will help purchase safety equipment and supplies for current and future club members.

Also receiving an On-Target grant is Ingham County’s 4-H Air Pistol Program. The grant will be used to help add a 10-meter air pistol program to the county’s well-established club. With this grant,
club leaders hope to offer more opportunities to current members while bringing in new members with an interest in air pistols.

4-H Participant Scholarship Grants

The Michigan 4-H Foundation also awarded $8,620 in 4-H Participant Scholarship Grants across 4-H programs in 21 counties: Alcona, Barry, Bay, Calhoun, Cass, Cheboygan, Crawford, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Iosco, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Monroe, Newaygo, Oscoda, Presque Isle, Tuscola, Van Buren and Wayne counties. These grants provide scholarship support for youth who are unable to pay the 4-H youth participant fee per county.

The 4-H Participant Scholarship Grant Program is made possible by gifts to the 4-H Participation Fee Scholarship Fund of the Michigan 4-H Foundation and gifts to support Michigan 4-H on Give Green Day.

The next mini grant cycle will open Apr. 1 with grant applications due June 1. More information and grant applications are online at https://mi4hfdtn.org/grants.

Eleanor Miller, Leelanau County 4-H volunteer, teaches youth about horseback riding.

Leelanau County 4-H volunteer Eleanor Miller, of Cedar, believes so strongly in 4-H that she created an endowment to provide support for future generations of 4-H’ers in her county. Miller leads the Hidden Beach 4-H Club, pictured above.Eleanor Miller creates endowment for Leelanau County 4-H

Leelanau County 4-H volunteer Eleanor Miller, of Cedar, believes so strongly in 4-H that she created an endowment to provide support for future generations of 4-H’ers in her county.

“I’ve been involved with 4-H for a long time,” Miller said. “4-H has always been a passion of mine.”

The Leelanau County 4-H Endowment Fund is a perpetual endowed fund and will provide an annual source of unrestricted revenue for everything from special 4-H projects to scholarships for 4-H Exploration Days and other 4-H trips and events.

“Leelanau County has had a strong 4-H presence for many years, and this endowment will ensure that there is continued support for our local youth to take part in local clubs and programming, as well as events across the state and the country,” said Rosali Collier, Leelanau County MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator. “We have many families who need financial assistance in order to send their children to these opportunities.

“This endowment will ensure that youth and their families receive local scholarships and have the chance to benefit from all that we offer through 4-H. Our youth numbers are small, and in order to promote our 4-H programming and grow our numbers of involved youth, we will need to be able to offer financial assistance to our local families, clubs and programs.”

This is why Miller established the endowment – to provide annual funding for the Leelanau County 4-H learning opportunities.

“Some kids are not able to afford to attend clinics and other 4-H educational opportunities,” Miller said. “I wanted to provide a fund to allow kids to be involved . Hopefully others will also contribute.”

Miller moved to Michigan from Wisconsin where she was a social worker. She wanted to work with horses in Michigan and found a natural fit with therapeutic horseback riding programs. She became a 4-H certified therapeutic riding instructor and worked at the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center in Augusta. Over time, she was able to open her own arena and 4-H therapeutic riding program in Cedar, which serves the five-county area.

Through the 4-H Proud Equestrians Program, Michigan’s 4-H therapeutic riding program, riders can improve balance, coordination, posture and muscle tone with the help of trained and caring volunteers. Horseback riding has also been shown to increase self-esteem, self-confidence, discipline and social growth.

Eleanor Miller, Leelanau County 4-H volunteer, teaches youth about horseback riding.“Horses mean a lot to me – they’re animals that have so much to offer. They are so responsive and such a great vehicle for youth to express themselves.”

Miller has served as a 4-H volunteer leader for over 40 years. She currently leads the Hidden Beach Equestrians, a 4-H club of 16 youth members ranging in ages from 9 to 19. Additionally, she has coached 4-H Horse Bowl Teams – a game similar to quiz bowl, but with only horse science and industry-related questions – and had several teams compete at the national level.

“I really like the programs. I had a lot of members that went on to veterinary school and medical professions because of the science learned in 4-H.”

With Miller’s guidance, the Hidden Beach Equestrians also learn the value of community service. The club has fundraised and volunteered for horse rescue organizations and collected riding helmets to donate to youth in Mongolia.

“What I really like about 4-H, from a leader’s point of view, is that I can do what I feel works for the kids and what the kids want to learn about. We can feel free to expand and explore.”
In addition to her 4-H volunteer service, Miller also serves on the MSU Extension District 3 Advisory Council and several local boards.

“Eleanor is an exemplary 4-H volunteer: she is patient, calm, and kind, and her greatest focus is to help the youth in her club succeed,” Collier said.

“If youth in her club can’t afford to have their own horses, Eleanor encourages them to use the horses on her property; if a youth shows leadership potential, Eleanor puts that young person in charge in some way. Eleanor puts kids first and is very modest about her own role in the success of her club members. She truly is a wonderful 4-H leader for Leelanau County!”

Stacy Hough & Cristie Warren

Two outstanding 4-H volunteers receive 2020-21 Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Awards and $1,000 program grants.

Stacy Hough, of Mecosta County and Christie Warren, of Washtenaw County, will receive $1,000 grants, funded by the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Endowment, to help support a 4-H agricultural program of their choosing, for volunteer training, supplies or curricula to enhance 4-H programming locally and statewide.

Honorees have been leaders in youth development and education achievements of Michigan 4-H through agricultural project areas including beef cattle; dairy cattle; goats; horses; horticulture, crops and soils; poultry; rabbits; sheep; swine; and veterinary science programs. Honorees will be recognized by both Michigan 4-H and by Michigan Farm Bureau.

Stacy Hough, Mecosta County
Stacy Hough, Mecosta County

Stacy Hough, Mecosta County, has been a 4-H volunteer since 2010 from the project areas of horse, beef and dairy science to small animals, goats and gardening. She has a passion to teach youth agriculture and as such teaches dissection and other science learning activities with her club. She also organizes 4-H dairy booth at the county fair. Additionally, she encourages youth to take on leadership roles at the county, state and national levels and lends a helping hand as needed.

“The greatest reward in being a 4-H volunteer is seeing young kids set goals and help them accomplish those goals,” Hough said. “Also very rewarding is seeing young people become very passionate about the agriculture industry.”

Cristie Warren, Washtenaw County
Cristie Warren, Washtenaw County

Christie Warren, Washtenaw County, has been a 4-H volunteer since 2017 and serves as the 4-H poultry superintendent. She serves on the state 4-H poultry committee and has been a trailblazer teaching youth embryology sessions for 4-H, schools and local libraries. She helps plan her county’s recognition banquet and encourages youth to apply for both county and state awards for their 4-H accomplishments. Warren also believes strongly in youth voice.

“My greatest reward is watching our youth members serve our community and take leadership within their clubs and communities,” Warren said.

The MFB 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Award is supported by an endowment with the Michigan 4-H Foundation, established by Michigan Farm Bureau in 2006. County Farm Bureaus and individuals were asked to build the endowment and Michigan Farm Bureau matched gifts received from county Farm Bureaus up to $50,000, resulting in a $100,000 endowment. These awards have been given since 2008. To learn more about the award and the award winners, visit https://mi4hfdtn.org/4-h-emerald-awards/michigan-farm-bureau-4-h-excellence-in-agriculture-award/.

The Ingham County 4-H Endowment Fund was one of nine counties that raised $50,000 or more in local gifts as part of the Make the Match County 4-H Endowment Campaign. The endowment’s interest earnings can provide general support for Ingham County 4-H. Pictured above are participants at the Ingham County 4-H Still Life Workshop in January.

The Ingham County 4-H Endowment Fund was one of nine counties that raised $50,000 or more in local gifts as part of the Make the Match County 4-H Endowment Campaign. The endowment’s interest earnings can provide general support for Ingham County 4-H. Pictured above are participants at the Ingham County 4-H Still Life Workshop in January.

Local 4-H endowments encourage continued private and public investment

Michigan 4-H has expanded its philanthropic community among 4-H alumni, volunteers and families with the Make the Match County 4-H Endowment Campaign. This campaign was designed to engage and educate the Michigan 4-H family to increase their private support for 4-H.

We are pleased that 31 Michigan county 4-H programs said yes to the opportunity to participate in the Michigan 4-H Foundation’s county 4-H endowment match campaign. The 31 county 4-H endowment match campaign partners are: Allegan, Arenac, Branch, Calhoun, Chippewa, Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Houghton-Keweenaw, Ingham, Ionia, Kalkaska, Kent, Lapeer, Lenawee, Macomb, Mason, Midland, Montcalm, Muskegon, Oakland, Osceola, Ottawa, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Joseph, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, these counties had raised a total of $897,286 from 1,579 donors.

“We believe the campaign has achieved the goal of helping to stem the threat to the future of 4-H, which has been increasingly challenged by declining public support,” said Cheryl Howell, Michigan 4-H Foundation executive director. “This campaign has served to build the private philanthropic culture and commitment among 4-H families, alumni, staff members and volunteers to ensure continued local and statewide support for Michigan 4-H programs.”

The $10,000 endowment minimum was met by 30 of the 31 participating county 4-H programs to be eligible for the match. Nineteen of the participating counties have met or exceeded their published local campaign goals. Additionally, nine counties raised $50,000 or more in local gifts: Gratiot, Kent, Lenawee, Montcalm, Osceola, Shiawassee, St. Joseph, Washtenaw and Ingham.

The Ingham County 4-H Make the Match Endowment Campaign was co-chaired by MSU Extension retirees Cynthia Mark and James Mulvany. Along with a small committee of current and past 4-H volunteers and staff members and in cooperation with the Ingham County 4-H Council, they were able to make the endowment a reality for Ingham County.

“We created a job description for the endowment committee so they knew what was expected of them,” Mark said. “We kicked off at the fair the summer of 2015. We met, had displays at the fair in the 4-H areas – mostly to raise awareness of the endowment and what it is.”

Mark explained that she and other committee members had to educate potential donors first so that there was a general understanding of what an endowment is as well as matching funds.

“We didn’t raise a lot of money at the first fair but it did get us thinking on what we should do next. We then sent a letter to buyers from the livestock sale,” she said.

The committee’s hard work paid off. The fund received some generous donations towards the endowment from the Ingham County 4-H Council and the Ingham County 4-H Livestock Committee, as well as local service club organizations, including the Mason Lions Club.

“I think the match made us focus on the endowment – it made us say ‘We can do this,’ and get involved. It gave us a chance to get it started because the Michigan 4-H Foundation provided support materials and the match.”

The endowment committee has continued to meet to plan next steps, such as upcoming events to thank donors and ways to continue to remind people that the endowment is a way to support 4-H locally.

“We think that this continues to build a legacy for the county. People can give and have their money used right away; however building this long-term fund gives a chance for continual funding for 4-H. That’s why I got involved,” Mark said.

The endowment’s 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 out-of-county experiences and participation fees or any future areas of great need to advance the county 4-H program.

“I appreciate all the support from the foundation, county and donors that gave. We had 120 donors that included individuals, clubs and businesses. It shows we have great support for 4-H in Ingham County,” Mark said.

The county 4-H endowment match pool was built by investments from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, the Seevers Family Foundation and a number of individual leadership donors. Together, these donors have contributed $805,702 toward the match pool.

Because county 4-H endowment totals have exceeded that amount, the match opportunity was suspended Dec. 31, 2016. To complete the promise to match all qualifying dollars raised by county 4-H programs through Dec. 31, 2016, the foundation continues to seek funding to complete the $1 million match pool goal.

To be eligible for matching funds, the county 4-H endowment must have reached a minimum of $10,000, and at least half of the funds must have come from individuals and/or 4-H youth clubs. The maximum match for a single county was $50,000.

Although gifts are no longer eligible for a match from the foundation, counties are encouraged to continue to grow their 4-H endowment funds. All contributions can help both local county 4-H endowment campaigns and the Campaign for Michigan 4-H’s Future reach their goals.

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: https://mi4hfdtn.org/giving-tuesday/.

Arlon and Shirley Elser
Arlon and Shirley Elser

Arlon and Shirley Elser

Hillsdale County 4-H alumnus Arlon Elser and his wife, Shirley, a Branch County 4-H alumna, provided a capital campaign gift to help establish 4-H endowments in Branch and Hillsdale counties and to grow the Make the Match Campaign match fund.

Arlon serves as vice chair of Whitestone Keep, LLC, and is the former program director of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Because he is a W.K. Kellogg Foundation retiree, the Elsers’ initial gift qualified for an employer match of 1:2, thus tripling the impact of their charitable gift.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

With the WKKF match, the Elsers’ gift helped to jump start county endowment campaigns in both Branch and Hillsdale counties.

General 4-H county endowment funds help provide annual support for 4-H program delivery, including scholarships for 4-H youth out-of-county experiences and participation fees, purchase of or development of new program and learning materials, or any future areas of great need to advance the county 4-H programs.

Because their gift funded general 4-H county endowment funds, their contribution will be matched again 1:1 by the Make the Match County 4-H Endowment match fund, thus doubling its impact for Branch and Hillsdale counties.

Harold E. Thomas

Harold E. Thomas

The Calhoun County 4-H Endowment Fund was established with an initial estate gift made to Calhoun County 4-H by Harold E. Thomas.

Thomas was an active Calhoun County 4-H volunteer who started the Legends of 4-H Award and was often seen helping at the Show of Champions. He would also help get people in line at both the Marshall Christmas Parade and the Calhoun County Fair Parade.

Thomas graduated from Marshall High School and served in the U.S. Army. He worked as a machine shop supervisor for the Grand Trunk Railroad for 41 years. An active member of Moose Lodge 676, he earned his degree of fellowship in 1972 and his pilgrim degree of merit in 2011.

Calhoun County 4-H is one of the 31 counties participating in the Make the Match County 4-H Endowment Campaign. Gifts to grow the Calhoun County 4-H Endowment Fund will have double the impact with the 1:1 match from the endowment match fund while match funds are available. Additional donations are welcomed to help grow the fund.


Including matching gifts, over $2 million has been committed to support local 4-H endowment funds across the state, thanks to the Make the Match County 4-H Endowment Campaign.

Since 2013, 4-H programs in 31 counties have participated in local campaigns to create and grow local 4-H endowment funds. These investments will provide on-going support for 4-H program delivery in local communities for generations to come.

As a result of this effort, 22 of the 31 counties have met or exceeded their initial campaign goals. All of the counties met or exceeded the $10,000 endowment minimum, with 11 counties raising $50,000 or more.

Participating counties which have not yet met the $50,000 maximum for matching funds, can still receive a dollar-for-dollar match on eligible gifts through Dec. 31, 2018, on a first-come, first-served basis until match funds are depleted. Click here to view county 4-H endowment campaign totals by county.


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. The match opportunity would not have been possible without investments from match pool donors to provide the matching funds. The match pool was built by contributions from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, the Seevers Family Foundation, the Lana Dart estate and several individual leadership gifts.

Jontaj Wallace, Calhoun County 4-H alumnus

Calhoun County 4-H alumnus Jontaj Wallace shares how his 4-H experiences helped shape his career in music.

A headshot of Jontaj Wallace.

When Jontaj Wallace joined the 4-H Creative and Expressive Arts program in Albion, Michigan many years ago, he likely had no idea that this action would result in him one day delivering a solo performance to thousands of people at Michigan State University’s Wharton Center.

But that was exactly where teenage Wallace found himself: performing the gospel hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow, to a roomful of his peers at 4-H Exploration Days. Wallace believes it was this experience, and his 10 years spent with the 4-H Creative and Expressive Arts program, that led to his lifetime passion and current career in music education.

“4-H helped unearth this desire to educate students through music,” said Wallace. “Not only did I get to practice my teaching skills in 4-H, but I was able to build connections with students that’ll last a lifetime.”

Jontaj Wallace as a youth
Jontaj Wallace (left) as a youth member of the 4-H Creative & Expression Arts group.

For six years as a youth, Wallace was a member of the creative arts group where he performed in and helped to design musicals. He continued giving back to the program for an additional four years, first as a junior leader and later as a faculty member, as he attended Albion College pursuing a music education degree.

“I was elated to be able to come back as faculty during my sophomore year of college to lead/teach the choir portion of the program. It was amazing. I was able to truly connect with students FROM my hometown. There was nothing more rewarding than to give back to the community in this way.”

Wallace’s work with the program prepared him well for the position he secured after his recent college graduation: serving as the choir/band director at Hanover Horton High School.

“I attribute a lot of this success to 4-H,” said Wallace. “4-H helped me practice skills well before I went to college. 4-H also prepared me to have good time management, not only when teaching, but also in general. It also helped to develop great communication skills and gave me good job interview skills.”

Though today Wallace finds himself busy with his work at Hanover Horton, he still continues to volunteer with the 4-H Creative and Expressive Arts program from time to time.

“I can’t stay away from 4-H!”

For those who may not be able to dream up where their 4-H career might take them, Wallace has this advice.

“Keep an open mind, you never know what you can do for 4-H and what it can do for you!”

To learn more about Michigan 4-H as a youth member or volunteer, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu.

Glenn and Cleo Williams have been married for 64 years and Shiawassee County 4-H has played a meaningful role in their lives both before they met and since they married.

In 2013, they honored the role of 4-H in their lives by making a significant gift of grain to the Michigan 4-H Foundation, that when it was sold, established the Shiawassee County 4-H Endowment Fund.

Glenn joined the Fairfield Township 4-H Club at age 10 and remained a member until he was 19. When he and Cleo were married, their wedding reception was hosted by that 4-H club. Cleo had been a 4-H member in Ingham County. Cleo became a volunteer leader of the Fairfield Sewers and Cookers 4-H Community Club, where she remained a volunteer for 23 years.

The couple’s four adult children were all 4-H members and raised on the family farm, a centennial farm started by Glenn’s grandfather 150 years ago. Originally a dairy farm, the farm is predominantly a cash crop farm producing corn, soybeans and wheat today. It was a gift of soybeans that funded the Shiawassee County 4-H Endowment Fund.

“When the administrator in Shiawassee County decided that MSU Extension could be cut, we went to rally to be there to support 4-H,” Glenn said. “It was Cleo’s idea that we do this gift.”

“I just wanted 4-H to continue,” Cleo said.

“4-H is a way to learn how to live life,” Glen added. “You learn responsibility, you have to keep records, you have to feed the animals when they need it, you have to work at something when you could just be lying around on the sofa!”

The recommendation for making their gift as a gift-in-kind using agricultural product came from MSU Extension educator Dennis Stein.

“Farmers produce a product and sometimes they have opportunity to share that product,” Stein said. “A charity can then sell that gift of product to benefit their charity. The time was right for the Williamses to make this gift.”

The Williamses’ gift for Shiawassee County will be doubled by the Michigan 4-H Foundation as part of the statewide county 4-H endowment match campaign. Young people in Shiawassee County will be supported for generations to come by this perpetual gift to support local 4-H programming. Donors interested in making a gift of grain should contact the Michigan 4-H Foundation and consult with their tax and financial advisers to determine if making such a gift makes sense for them.

Annual earnings from the fund’s investment can provide for scholarships for 4-H youth out-of-county experiences and participation fees; the purchase and development of new program and learning materials or any future areas of great need to advance the
Shiawassee County 4-H program.