The Cumberland County community is made up people who support 4-H, were in 4-H, led a 4-H club, or know someone in 4-H.

This community continuously supports all 4-H endeavors and activities to reach new audiences, so the 4-H program tries to give back as much as possible. Throughout the 4-H year, you will find clubs and members “making the best better” in their area by giving back. Take a look at what 4-H members have done for the community.

Last year, a Cumberland 4-H alumni and parent, Jessi Ryder, started a new tradition for something she is passionate about during fair week. On the Friday after everyone weighs their animals in and fair week is kicked off, a group of members gather to volunteer at the Coles County Animal Shelter. As members went to the shelter, they brought supplies the shelter requested from their donation list. The members also socialized with all of the cats and dogs. Teaching our members a valuable lesson: Those who teach most about humanity aren’t always human. This program is only in its second year, but is one of the highlights of the fair.

A local club won a Farm Credit grant to restore a playground used by neighborhood kids at a local church hall. The Springpoint Rebels painted new lines for numerous games, laid new rock, and reinforced some of the equipment to make the playground a safer and more welcoming space for all the youth who enjoy the equipment. This playground is located at the Lillyville Catholic Church hall in the southwest corner of rural Cumberland County.

On multiple occasions and levels, the 4-Hers in Cumberland County have helped pack bags for the Backpack Ministry at Cumberland schools. The county as a whole has volunteered with this organization to assist youth who may be at risk. Individual 4-H clubs have assisted as well. The bags they help pack are filled with food to be distributed to students to take home for the weekend. In a small amount of time, members make a difference to a large amount of their peers as we never know what anyone might be struggling with.

Cumberland County 4-H also hosts a yearly pantry scavenger hunt from November to the following March. The food and items collected are distributed to three local food pantries. Over the last three years, 4-H members and their families have tripled their donations and continuously donate more and more to help others. The collected items are taken before Thanksgiving, before Christmas, and again in March. Oftentimes donations are high around the holidays, but a car load of supplies in March is greatly appreciated. The food pantry staff were thankful as the need is there year-round. Every donation helps someone in need in our community.

In November, the county leadership group called 4-H Federation shops for the Angel Tree. Each year they buy Christmas presents for four children in the area who might not get as much around the holidays. The members spend an afternoon shopping for whatever interests were shared and purchasing outfits for the Angel Tree. As role models for our younger members, the 4-H Federation group leads by example as they impact lives around them.

Last fall a group of members partook in a six-week special interest club in which they learned about holiday cooking while also making some holiday treats. From cookies to homemade noodles, the members tried their hand at some sweet treats. Some of these cookies were taken to first responders as a thanks for always being the first ones there when needed. As the cookies were made, members learned how important the job is as a first responder. Whether a fireman, EMT or police officer, they are there to serve and protect members of our community. We thanked them with cookies in a partnership with the local Home and Community Education group.

Cumberland County 4-H celebrates its own 4-H week in early March each year. During this week, they create tie-blankets. In 2019, members created 10 tie-blankets of varying sizes and designs for both boys and girls. The members get together one evening during the week and in less than an hour create these to donate. The blankets are then taken to the DCFS office in Charleston that serves Cumberland County. Each year the DCFS staff are thankful to receive the blankets.

“Sometimes we remove the child or elderly person with nothing but the clothes on their back,” one field staff member told me as I dropped the blankets off. That’s where these blankets are extremely useful. Offering a piece of mind and security in what can be hard times.

As you can see, in Cumberland County, we try to make a difference in our community every opportunity we can. We make the best better for our club, our community, our country, and our world through acts of giving back during our community service events.

If you would like more information about Cumberland County 4-H, contact Jaylynn Maxey at the Cumberland County Extension office at 217-849-3931 or visit our website at http://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html.

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