The below excerpt is taken from “Centennial Edition Wednesday, May 17, 1954.”
Rural Youth was organized in the early 1930s. In the dozen or so years between the end of World War I and the crash of the stock market in late 1929, the surplus farm youth left the farms for seemingly more attractive positions in the cities and towns. Pay was good but living costs were high, and few if any put aside any savings. These young people, when things seemed alright, found themselves stranded in the cities without jobs, money or homes. There was only one thing left for them to do — go home to their parents’ farm. Soon the rural communities were overcrowded with the influx of young people augmented by the steady flow of young folk growing up.
Father George Nell of St. Joseph’s Church in the Island Grove rural community realized the need of a program for the rural youth. Father Nell went to the office of the farm adviser, George Iftner, early in October 1931 and said to him “Iftner, I have 28 young men and women who in normal times would be either married and farming for themselves, or would have found employment anywhere. They are literally piling up in the farm homes.
“They share what work there is, but there is so little money coming in that they are almost desperate. They need a program. My church is doing everything it can, but they need more. There is only one place where they can turn — to the Farm Bureau and Extension Service.
“You represent both here in the county. You can draw on the resources of the University of Illinois and on the Illinois Agricultural Association. You can reach all groups regardless of religious or political beliefs. It is a great opportunity to you. I challenge you to take advantage of it and pledge you my wholehearted support.”
Father Nell was so convincing, so enthusiastic and so resourceful that Iftner accepted the challenge and went to work. The Farm Bureau board appointed a county steering committee of the following youthful leaders: Orthello Laue. Roland Soltwedel, Walter Schottman, Marie Schottman, Clarence Schmohe, Henrietta Goldstein, Emil Engel, Edna Kirchhofer, Ward Buzzard, Edwin Grobengieser, Julia Winter, Russell Davis, Luetta Schwarz, Dan Ordner, Sophia Hank, Vance Hulbert, Grace Gieseking, Charles Homan, Helen Homan Sylvester Zerrusen, Irene Moeller, Norbert Soltwedel, Charlotte Krone, Laura Pals, Anna Bernhard, Gertrude Brummer, Alvin Davis, Edith Feldhake, Barbara Lidy, Oscar Moeller, Alice Osthoff, Cecilia Ordner, Corrine Price, Rolland Moeller, Fay Yount, Urban Goldstein, Alph Hartke, Selma Moeller, Helen Buzzard, Geraldine Goldstein and Lawrence Sur.
This committee met several times in the fall of 1931 and formulated a program stressing five essential points — Social activities, recreation, education, leadership and service and moans of support. These became the foundation stones in the Illinois Rural Youth movement.
Effingham County Rural Youth now (i.e., by 1954) has approximately 50 active members. The present officers are Norman Kirchhofer, president; Dorothy Lewis, vice president; and Shirley Meinhart, secretary/treasurer. They meet monthly in the recreation room in the new Farm Bureau Building located at 101 South Henrietta. The past years of Rural Youth progress in the many counties have been filled with activities that can be classified properly under one or all of these above mentioned five foundation stones, laid down in late 1931 and early 1932.