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May 2013 Archives

Featured Alum: Tom Harding

4h-alum-tom-harding.jpgMeet Tom Harding, a proud Hennepin County 4-H alum. 4-H was an impactful part of his development as a youth, teaching him critical public speaking skills and the importance of consistent community service. His club, the Kelly Drivers, visited monthly with the residents at Hammer School, a Wayzata-based residential program that served youth with disabilities. Over the many months that Tom and the other Kelly Divers Club members visited, they built relationships with the students through games and sing-alongs.

The commitment to community service that Tom developed during his years in 4-H remains a strong part of his adult life. He is currently serving his second term as chairperson of the Minnesota 4-H Foundation's Board of Trustees and also serves as a competition judge for DECA, a nationwide club for high school students who are interested in domestic and international business. Through his company, Infinity Direct, Tom engages regularly in group community service. He especially enjoys sorting and packing food for people in need with Second Harvest Heartland.

"Consistently helping in the community is like planting a seed each day and watching them grow over time," says Tom. "There is nothing that makes me happier than getting to see the delight on another person's face when they receive something important, especially when the gift is unexpected."

Tom, his wife Mary and their son Elliot live in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Serving others through a community garden

Mower Co. Frankford Jolly Youth B.JPG
The Frankford Jolly Youth is a Mower County 4-H club in Grand Meadow, Minnesota. This group of youth, along with some supportive adults, partnered with the local school district to plan, plant, cultivate and harvest a garden that produced over 800 pounds of vegetables last year. This produce was donated to the Grand Meadow Food Shelf and several elderly community members.

"I volunteered with my family about 8 times over the summer to keep the garden watered and weeded and to pick vegetables when they were ready," said Emily, a 12-year old 4-H club member. "It gave me such a happy feeling to bring all that food to people who needed it. On the days when the food shelf couldn't take everything we'd harvested, we shared the extras with our neighbor Betsy. She's too old to grow her own vegetables, but she loves cooking them."

The Minnesota 4-H Foundation, through their annual Helping Hands Grant program, provided the start-up money for this community gardening project. Donations from local farmers, businesses and individuals of compost, plants and tools made community support for this project overwhelmingly apparent.

"We sought advice from the principal and parent advisory committee at Grand Meadow School, Mower County's Master Gardeners and other community members about what plants to grow and how to amend the soil," said Jessica Fretty, 4-H club leader for the Frankford Jolly Youth. "The K-4th grade teachers engaged all their classrooms in the planning and planting process. It was great to see so many people support this project."

The Frankford Jolly Youth Club is actively engaged in preparing for the next growing season. They were awarded additional funds for expanding this community service gardening project through the Helping Hands Grant program and community support continues to be strong.

"We hope to resolve some drainage issues and be even more purposeful about how we distribute vegetables to the seniors in our community," noted Fretty. "We're also going to plant more shelf-stable crops like potatoes and onions to better serve the families who use the food shelf. This has been such a great experience for us. We're grateful to the 4-H Foundation for supporting our work!"

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