Congratulations to Stephen Gustafson, Tolland County 4-H Volunteer, who has been selected by National 4-H Council to receive the Northeast Volunteer of the Year award for 2020. Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club. The Paca Pals are an alpaca club. The club meets at the Round Hill alpaca farm monthly. At the meetings the youth conduct a business meeting, learn about alpaca care and showmanship, and plan their yearly calendar. Their calendar is youth driven and is for activities, competitions and community outreach. Steve empowers the club members to take on meaningful leadership roles in the club and their community. He works equally well with youth members and adult stakeholders. Steve looks for opportunities beyond the farm where the youth can learn and grow.
Off the alpaca farm, Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agriculture Center (TAC) 4-H Children’s Garden. The garden was established in 2002 and has been maintained by the 4-H club program for many years. A neighbor on the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) Greenhouse and vocational program. The CLCC greenhouse sits right next to the 4-H Children’s garden. The work of CLCC, to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together, is a wonderful match with the work of 4-H. The garden and greenhouse being neighbors has enabled the CLCC farmers to work outside in the garden in the summer with the 4-H program. Steve has been instrumental in fostering this partnership. He is able to coordinate between the two groups because of his volunteer work with both. The 4-H youth and CLCC farmers are both learning valuable vocation and life skills. The UConn 4-H Program is honored to announce this well-deserved recognition for Steve.