Photo by Diane Cox
Town and Country 4-H members are (front row) Angelina Thomas, Lucas Lenger, Marley McGibany and Olivia Hamann (back row) Karson Miller, Anna Muffler, leader Charlene Bandy,Taylor Stillwell, Halee Baker and Kara Carnes.
BETHALTO — The Bethalto chapter of the Town and Country 4-H Club has spent the last 65 years working with local youth as a mentoring program focusing on community service and involvement.
“I was in the 4-H Club when I was a child,” Town and Country leader Charlene Bandy said. “I was involved for 11 years. It seems as though those who join the club and go through its membership course will come back and be leaders as adults. They see the importance of the organization and the benefits. This is now my 29th year as a leader. When I was a kid in 4-H, it was all about cooking, sewing and caring for livestock. Things have changed so much over the years.”
One element the 4-H Club offers youths is the ability to learn how to support themselves, which in turn builds self-esteem. Club members look forward to earning the opportunity to compete at the Madison County Fair in several categories — one example is cooking.
“We encourage the kids to make their best even better,” Bandy said. “The biggest twist in the competitions is that they only compete against themselves. Judges will sit down with the child for a small interview. They will sample the child’s entry and determine if the child’s effort is worthy of the blue ribbon. The kids will work on a recipe for quite a while to improve it. Kids under the age of 10 can earn a best of show ribbon. Blue ribbons are for ages 10 and up.”
Community service and involvement is one of the club’s main focuses.
“A lot of our community service projects and involvement is performed from September through December,” Bandy said. “We’ve made dog treats during Pet Awareness Week. People brought in their animals and the dogs loved the treats. During the fall festival sponsored by the Bethalto Spirit, we did pumpkin decorating. Local kids could color or decorate their pumpkins with stickers and take them home. One fun event is the Christmas walk. Our kids dress in Victorian-style clothing: the young ladies in dresses and the boys would wear knickers and hats. We go all out and it’s a lot of fun.”
One part of the 4-H Club is fundraising such as bake sales, yard sales, community donations and the support of local businesses such as the Tractor Supply Co. and Roma’s.
On Wednesday, Feb. 25, Roma’s will donate 10 percent of its profits from dining in and carry-outs to the club as long as patrons mention 4-H during their transaction.
During the fall school registration, Bandy passes out information at schools encouraging students to join the club. Students are invited to a meeting to see what the organization is all about.
Children ages 8 to 19 are welcome to join every fall with a one-year commitment. The financial obligation is a $20 registration fee at sign-up with no monthly dues. Children are encouraged to stay with the 4-H Club through their first year of college.
“Being a part of the 4-H Club looks great on a resumé or college application,” Bandy said. “We’ve helped kids with references for college scholarships. We really encourage all kids to get involved with something in their community, not just the 4-H alone, but other service groups as well.”
Meetings are held on the first Monday of every month at the Bethalto Senior Citizens building across from the Village Hall and Police Department.
“One thing I love as a leader is seeing how these kids grow and change,” Bandy said. “The 4-H Club celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2002. It’s such a great organization for kids and the community.”