Sue Bowman's presentation visual aid from her time in 4-H Friends. 

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking to the Lebanon County 4-H Friends Club. It was an enjoyable experience, not only because the youngsters and their leaders were so welcoming, but also because it brought back memories of my years as a member of the Fontana 4-H Club.

Times sure have changed. Our Fontana 4-H Club met in the homes of different members, which made things rather challenging when we were doing cooking projects and had only one stove to share amongst our membership of 10 or 12 of us. Likewise, the gals who were doing sewing projects had to wait their turn to use whatever sewing machine their hostess had to offer.

The current Lebanon County 4-H Friends Club, which meets at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center, had over 50 members prior to COVID-19’s interruption in their regular meeting schedule. They eventually switched to online Zoom meetings until the June 2021 meeting became their first in-person gathering since February 2020. I enjoyed seeing these friends reconnecting after months of being apart. Even with their masks on, it wasn’t hard to see the joy with which they greeted each other. They’re also hoping that more of the club’s members will return to attend future meetings.

While all the members of our Fontana 4-H Club, which focused on “home economics”-type projects (these days called “family and consumer sciences”), were females, the 4-H Friends Club is a co-ed group. Club members work on projects that interest them as individuals, so that not everyone is doing the same project at the same time, like back in my 4-H days.

Their meeting’s agenda was rather lengthy, but it was well-organized and moved ahead efficiently under the leadership of president Olivia Thorpe. Thinking back to my own 4-H experience, I was impressed with how much more poised these young people are than I and my peers had been at their age. Lizzie Kreider presented her radio spot, which had won a regional 4-H communications contest. She sounded like a professional speaker.

Equally impressive was the winning 4-H pledge presentation in that same competition. It was presented by 4-H Friends Club member Riley Werner, who had decided to make her version of the pledge stand out by accompanying it with sign language. Even for those of us who do not communicate via sign language, Riley’s hand movements made the head, heart, hands and health components come to life.

Some of the meeting’s most memorable moments came when two 4-H Friends Club members received scholarships to help further their college educations. Olivia Thorpe, who has made numerous progressively challenging sewing projects through the years, will be attending Immaculata University in Philadelphia. She’ll be majoring in fashion marketing with the help of a $1,000 Lebanon County 4-H scholarship and an additional $1,000 from the Aletta Schadler Community Service/Engagement Scholarship. Fellow 4-H member Lizzie Kreider also received a $1,000 Lebanon County 4-H scholarship. She will be attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and has plans to pursue a career in occupational therapy.

Much of the remainder of the meeting was devoted to the club’s preparations for the Lebanon Area Fair, being held this year on July 24-31 at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center. Details were shared about how to register and registration deadlines. They also discussed many other fair details including their club’s entry onto the Educational Booth Contest; volunteer opportunities for the fair’s refreshment stands; selling tickets to the fair’s ham and chicken barbecues; accepting fair entries and donating for the fair’s annual 4-H benefit auction. What an active and enthusiastic bunch these 4-H Friends Club members are, I thought.

Back in My Day ... 

If you’re wondering about Pierre Painordinaire by now, “he” helped me introduce myself to the club as part of the presentation I’d been asked to give about my role as a columnist and writer for Lancaster Farming. I wanted to prove to the 4-H Friends that I’d been a 4-H’er myself once upon a time, so I brought along several posters I’d used back in the “dark ages” when I’d been teamed up with fellow 4-H’er Rose Schaab, of the Fredericksburg 4-H Club, by our Penn State Extension leader, home economist Agnes Moot. Our mission had been to do a 4-H demonstration on baking French bread.

To enliven our presentation, Rose’s mother had made us white aprons and berets with a red-and-white gingham check trim. My contribution to the cause was inventing a little cartoon-like character consisting of a slice of French bread with a mustachioed man’s face on it, topped off with a little beret of his own. I drew his likeness on our opening poster and christened him “Pierre Painordinaire” —Pierre because it was a French-sounding first name, while “pain ordinaire” translates from the French language to “everyday bread.”

Although I’m told that 4-H’ers these days use computer PowerPoint presentations with their demonstrations, we were the opposite of high tech. Our demonstration’s poster boards had been cut into the shape of large bread slices and trimmed with brown crayon to look like the crust. I hand-drew and crayoned illustrations of the four basic food groups, as well as the four “Steps to Perfect Bread: Mixing, Kneading, Shaping and Baking.”

It was probably more of a fun stroll down memory land for me than for the 4-H Friends Club, but they were gracious hosts anyway.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.


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