Texas, out-of-state 4-H’ers pitch in on Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Toby Lepley, 979-845-1212, toby.lepley@ag.tamu.edu

Candace Moeller, 361-526-2825, candace.moeller@ag.tamu.edu

Kyle McManus, 361-767-5223, kyle.mcmanus@ag.tamu.edu

Meredith Miller, 361-265-9203, meredith.miller@ag.tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Hundreds of youth in Texas 4-H  and out-of-state 4-H programs gave their “heads, hearts, hands and health” to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas, said Dr. Toby Lepley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state 4-H youth development specialist, College Station.

Texas 4-H is the youth development component of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Candace Moeller, AgriLife Extension agent in Refugio County, said that county was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.

“In spite of the fact that some of our 4-H families lost everything they had, they still took time to help others in the community,” Moeller said. “It was really heartwarming.”

She said from 20-25 local 4-H members and 10-15 4-H adult volunteers have been helping in countywide relief efforts during the past two weeks.

Refugio County 4-H members help at a distribution center in Refugio, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Cathy White)

“A lot of the 4-H’ers helped at the Refugio County donation center set up at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in Refugio,” she said. “They provided donations of food, clothing, bedding, blankets and other necessities. They also helped unload donated items and load items for distribution to those in need.”

One of the 4-H members helping at the donation center was Keli Ressmann, a high school sophomore and 10-year 4-H member from Refugio.

Ressmann, who evacuated to San Antonio and later returned to Refugio, helped coordinate and organize supplies for the donation center.

“Along with organizing the items, I was a ‘runner,’ which meant I got information about what supplies people needed and then went out and assembled them. I also helped deliver the supplies, especially to the elderly who couldn’t pick them up themselves.”

Ressmann said while she was helping she would overhear how the hurricane and flooding affected the people she was helping.

“So many of them had lost everything,” she said. “I was glad to be there doing what I could and helping people get some of the things they needed.”

Moeller said both Refugio County 4-H youth and adult volunteers have also been involved in efforts to remove brush, branches and other debris for collection.

Kyle McManus, AgriLife Extension 4-H youth development agent in nearby Nueces County, said more than 120 4-H youth and more than 50 adult 4-H program volunteers from that county also helped with efforts in hard-hit communities, including those in Refugio County.

“The 4-Hers and adult volunteers went into several communities to provide help with cleanup,” he said. “They also provided meals for those in the affected area.”

He said Nueces County 4-H’ers also helped clear debris and remove tree limbs and other obstructions from neighborhoods.

Members of Nueces County 4-H help collect and sort goods intended for victims of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy of Kyle McManus)

“On Sept. 2 the 4-H’ers and adult volunteers served more than 450 meals to those in the affected area, focusing on seniors and others unable to leave their homes,” McManus said. “The 4-H’ers helped cook and we served spaghetti, green beans and a roll, plus cookies and other desserts as well as watermelon to people displaced by the storm.”

He said Nueces County 4-H’ers are still active in cleanup efforts and stand ready to assist nearby Aransas County when officials give them the go-ahead.

“We also plan to return to Refugio County later this month to continue our efforts in that county,” he said.

 Meredith Miller, AgriLife Extension District 11 4-H specialist based in Corpus Christi, said efforts by 4-H members and adult volunteers in response to Hurricane Harvey have been “overwhelming and humbling.”

Miller estimates at least 100 4-H members and 30-40 adult volunteers have been helping with cleanup and recovery efforts in Rockport, Fulton, Aransas Pass, Port Aransas and up the Texas Gulf Coast to Bayside and inland to Refugio.

“A lot of them have also been working at the shelter distribution area, helping cook and distribute meals,” she said. “They’ve also been collecting food and clothing for those affected.”

Flyer for the Hurricane Harvey fundraiser in collaboration with Diamond E in Snyder.

Miller noted 4-H clubs throughout the affected area are also involved in a T-shirt sale fundraiser sponsored by Diamond E in Snyder, with all proceeds going to the Texas 4-H Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

“We’ve also been contacted and given assistance by 4-H clubs from Indiana, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ohio and other states,” she said. “The response has been tremendous.”

Lepley said a prime example of 4-H’ers in other states pitching in has been the Stark County 4-H Club of Ohio, which hosted a fundraiser and held a food drive for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Beth Eicher, president of the Stark County Fair’s Junior Fair Marketing Committee, said county 4-H members had approached her with the idea of doing something to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“We were having our fair when Hurricane Harvey hit and the 4-H’ers immediately thought about how they could help,” Eicher said. “They asked for advice from the committee and senior board and we all started brainstorming ideas.”

Collaborating with others in the community, Stark County 4-H members raised more than $18,000 toward Hurricane Harvey relief in a single day through a livestock auction at the Stark County Fair. In addition, over a four-day period, they worked in conjunction with the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank to collect five full skids of non-perishables to be transported to the Houston Food Bank.

This pig was auctioned off at the Stark County Fair in Ohio as part of fundraising efforts for Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy of Stark County Fair)

Dale Klick, president of the Senior Fair Board donated a pig for auction, which was purchased by Paris Washington Insurance and Sarchione Chevy/ Ford of Randolph for $2,600. Other buyers donated an additional $4,200, providing $6,800 for 4-H Foundation Texas Relief.

The Dean Pugh family and Robert Butzer provided a steer for auction and then donated the proceeds to the American Veterinary Medical Fund for Texas Relief. Others added their donations, raising $11,290 for that fund.

Nathan Sparren, a nine-year member of Stark County 4-H, said the Akron-Canton Food Bank and local media were supportive of their efforts.

“The fair’s senior board helped us make connections with the media, and local radio stations and newspapers helped us get the word out on the food drive and auction,” Sparren said. “We also did Facebook posts and used other social media to spread the word.”

He said he was impressed with the way the 4-H members suddenly came together to help.

“Everybody just forgot about whatever problems they had and put aside whatever they were doing to pitch in,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”

David Crawford, Ohio State University county Extension director and 4-H agent, said more than 750 youth from Stark County were either directly or indirectly involved in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. He also cited the efforts of the many 4-H adult volunteers.

“We stress community service in 4-H and this was a great example of our youth working together to help others, Crawford said. “It was an experience and a life lesson they can remember — and one that will serve them for a lifetime.”

Both Eicher and Crawford also praised members of the Sancic family, a longtime 4-H family, who drove three truckloads of livestock hay and feed from their operation in Ohio to a Livestock Supply Point in Nome, Texas, to provide nourishment for animals displaced by the storm.

“The compassion and outpouring of generosity by 4-H members and adult volunteers in Texas and other states has been overwhelming,” Lepley said. “They have demonstrated the kind of character and selflessness we have come to expect from those in the 4-H family. We are proud of them and we are extremely grateful for everything they have done.”

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