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4-H'ers Stitching Up Service to Others

by Jennifer M.

The Wood County 4-H program in Ohio is a key leader in the area of service learning through the art of quilting. For the past five years 4-H members and volunteers have created more than 110 quilts for cancer patients, domestic violence victims, teenage mothers, and individuals in need identified by 4-H members.

This year 50 members have gathered together to construct quilts for the Neonatal Unit at St. Vincent Mercy Children's Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. "I believe the best thing we can do in life is give service to others and that is part of the mission of 4-H, to pledge our hands to larger service," said Jennifer, program assistant, 4-H Youth Development in Wood County. "I have found a way to instill this value in 4-H members through quilting. There is no greater feeling than watching 4-H'ers construct a quilt side by side with a mentor, ... then see them give their labor of love to someone who desperately needs support at a difficult time."

The mentors are often the members' mother or grandmother. They can also be a 4-H advisor, sister, or another friend. Participants learn, or continue to improve, the skills required to make quilts, develop or enhance a relationship with a caring adult, and discover the dramatic role quilts can play in the lives of others. Participants also continue to come back and construct quilts long after they have graduated from the 4-H program. "I have 4-H alumni who have built connections with past program recipients. They have built a foundation for the next generation that recognizes service for others," she added.

This year, because the quilts are smaller in size, participants focus on learning the art of hand quilting. The quilters will have the opportunity to personally deliver their quilts to the hospital in late August, including a visit to the Neonatal Unit. "I am looking forward to this trip not only for my alumni quilters, but also to see the reaction of my new participants."

The quilting project has not only been a part of the traditional 4-H program, it has also been brought into the elementary classroom. In the past four years, fourth-grade students at three local elementary schools have had the opportunity to study the history of quilting, learn how quilts are connected to agriculture, construct blocks, and have a completed quilt to donate to a program or individual of their choice. "It is another way to enhance the 4-H practice of 'learn by doing' and 'service for others' in a classroom environment."

If you would like more information about the quilters and the Wood County 4-H program, visit the Web site at http://www.wood.osu.edu and click on the 4-H Clover.

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