volunteer

Did You Know: Cleaning New Haven Coastal Area

Summer may be over, but cleaning our coastal areas can be a yearlong project. On August 12 of 2023, volunteers spent two hours collecting over 110 pounds of trash in the Long Wharf Drive and the Long Wharf Nature Preserve in New Haven. the cleanup kicking off the 2023 #DontTrashLISound campaign led by Connecticut Sea Grant and the 2023 Connecticut Cleanup season led by Save the Sound. The two organizations partnered on the cleanup, which netted 12 bags with more than 110 pounds of trash. Two other organizations, Connecticut Clean Communities and Garbo Grabber, a company that makes trash pickup equipment, cleaned an adjoining section of Long Wharf Drive that morning, filling nine bags. Proving that coastal clean ups are much needed.
Woman walking on the New Haven coast with her bucket of trash
One of the 17 volunteers at the Aug. 12 cleanup heads into the Long Wharf Nature Preserve to pick up trash.

The cleanup launched the seventh annual #DontTrashLISound campaign of cleanups, social media posts and giveaways of popular “Protect Our Wildlife” stickers for reusable water bottles and travel mugs by Connecticut Sea Grant. The 2023 theme, “Love the coast—pitch the plastic” calls attention to the prevalence of plastic trash in the environment and encourages people to reduce single-use plastics by choosing reusable items instead, and making sure trash is disposed of properly.

The campaign continued on through International Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 16. It is one of several actions being taken by the Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs and their partners to implement the Long Island Sound Marine Debris Action Plan since its completion in 2022.

Remember keeping the outdoors clean if everyone’s responsibility. If you are going on a walk and see trash, pick it up. We can all help throughout the year. Let’s keep the coast and other parts of Connecticut clean!

 

 

Volunteer Opportunity in Cheshire, Niantic or Uncasville with PEP

UConn Extension People Empowering People (PEP) Correctional Institute (CI) Program 

Trish and Edna standing in front of the prison they volunteer at
Trish Spofford and Edna Johnson at the York Correctional Institute, one of the UConn PEP locations.

UConn Extension People Empowering People CI is seeking volunteer facilitators to go into the Cheshire Correctional Institution, York Correctional Institution and Corrigan Correctional Center to facilitate UConn Extension PEP CI on a weekly basis. The UConn PEP CI program mission is to draw from the unique strengths, life experiences and capacities of each participant to build a community of mutual support from which participants gain skills and confidence to aid their rehabilitation and keep them out of prison.

The volunteer facilitators will work together as a team and lead a series of 15-17 2-hour sessions to a group of 10-15 inmates. Sample sessions include Empowerment, Values, Communication, Problem Solving, and Managing Conflict, Coping Strategies, Healthy Relationships, Goal Setting and Preparing for My Next Job.  Schedule of days and times of the volunteer opportunity vary by location. UConn Extension will provide training for the volunteer facilitators chosen for the program. Please email pep@uconn.edu for more information and to request an application. You can also visit the UConn PEP CI website at: https://pep.extension.uconn.edu/pepci/

10 Ways to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

UConn 4-H Legends soccer group
The UConn 4-H Legends.

No matter how much time you have, volunteering with UConn 4-H makes a difference by helping youth explore and discover the skills they need to lead for a lifetime. There are lots of ways to get involved! Please note, your volunteer experience and/or opportunities may be happening virtually or in-person. Contact UConn 4-H for more information and apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus.

Help youth lead a club

  • Assist a youth club leader with organizing meetings, speakers, and other logistics.
  • Assist and/or mentor a 4-H volunteer who is serving as a project leader.

Teach a skill

  • Organize a club, or share your skills by teaching a club meeting workshop, devoted to your area of specialty.

Judge projects

  • Serve as a judge for 4-H exhibits, competitions or performances, providing encouragement and suggestions for improvement.

Plan or help at an event

  • Volunteer at a county/state special event; from set-up or clean-up to serving food or taking registrations, there are a lot of ways to get involved.

Serve on an advisory board/committee

  • Sit on a local advisory or county governing board to help determine program priorities.

Help with a specific 4-H project

  • Advise a 4-H member in their project work: help youth identify and set goals, create and implement a plan, and reflect on what they learned and would do differently next time.

Assist with program delivery

  • Volunteer at an after school program, a summer program, camp program event or club meeting.

Volunteer on a fair organizing committee

  • Volunteer at a local fair – be inspired by the talents and creativity of the next generation while promoting the country’s largest positive youth development organization!
  • Work in the food booth or help in the 4-H exhibit hall or at the 4-H show ring.

Utilize your professional skills

  • Share your technical skills and knowledge to develop subject matter for curriculum/project sheets.
  • Utilize your professional skills to assist with with creating marketing tools, graphic art, word documents, webpages, videos, online training modules, etc.
  • Intern at your local Extension office with the 4-H program, a great resume builder.

Share your experiences

  • Share your hobby/passion – inspire a young person as a guest speaker or short-term instructor.
  • Share your career path – invite a 4-H’er to shadow you for the day.
  • Share your educational path/give a testimonial – how did you get to where you are? (If you are a college student – how did you choose your school, what are you pursuing, what are you aspiring to do?)

Apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential through UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages five through 18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.

UConn 4-H uses the thriving model in our Extension youth development programs, and these align with all the strategic initiatives in CAHNR. These include climate adaptation and resilience; promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; enhancing health and well-being; ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems; and fostering sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. Learn more at s.uconn.edu/4-H.

Help Wanted: Become a UConn 4-H Volunteer

UConn 4-H is Accepting Volunteer Applications

student in garden
A youth member at Auerfarm.

UConn 4-H provides youth with life-changing experiences from flying rockets into space with NASA to organizing national conferences for other youth, and everything in between. These experiences are possible because of thousands of adult mentors and volunteers who work throughout the state and guide youth to reach their potential.

Volunteer opportunities include club leaders, county fair advisors, mentors, project leaders, project evaluators, advisory committee members, and workshop presenters. 

If you enjoy working with children, have a willingness to share your time and talents with young people in the community, like to have fun, learn new skills, and make a difference, then being a 4-H volunteer is for you.

“UConn 4-H is the best organization ever for my daughters and me. Both, they, and I, learned and grew with the involvement in 4-H. It has provided me with the ability to give back to other young folks up in coming in 4-H. The Trice girls swear by 4-H,” says Ken Trice, a UConn 4-H volunteer from Tolland County.

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth reach their potential. Volunteers help youth learn leadership, civic engagement and life skills through projects and activities. Hobbies or interests such as photography, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, robotics, or something else can be shared with youth through the 4-H program.

“UConn 4-H helped me develop a set of skills like; teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, dependability, leadership which I use every day in my career,” says Rachael Manzer, a nationally awarded educator, and UConn 4-H alumni and volunteer.

Volunteer training and recognition is conducted at local, state, and regional levels. New 4-H volunteers participate in a general orientation with UConn Extension. Meetings are held throughout the state several times each year to help new leaders and volunteers. 

“4-H has been one of the most important aspects of my life and has shaped me as a person in more ways than I could ever imagine. Through this organization, I have been educated on necessary life skills, the significance of helping my community, and the key elements of leadership, just to name a few. But, most of all, 4-H has taught me the utter importance of responsibility,” says Ava, age 15, a UConn 4-H member from Fairfield County.

Just as we recognize the efforts of youth, the UConn 4-H Program recognizes and acknowledges its volunteers for their efforts at the local, state, and national level. The biggest reward is watching the transformation in youth and seeing them grow into engaged adults making a positive contribution. Apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential through UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages five through 18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.

UConn 4-H uses the thriving model in our Extension youth development programs, and these align with all the strategic initiatives in CAHNR. These include climate adaptation and resilience; promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; enhancing health and well-being; ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems; and fostering sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. Learn more at s.uconn.edu/4-H.

Extension Recognizes Program Volunteers

Carol LeBlanc receiving her volunteer award
Carol LeBlanc receiving her volunteer award.

Volunteers are the heart of UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, UConn CLIR program, and our UConn 4-H program. We were honored to recognize a few of them for their contributions at an event on June 16, 2022. In total, our volunteers donated 156,597 hours (the equivalent of 6,524 days) to our programs in 2021. Thank you all for being a vital part of our Extension work! More information about our volunteer programs is available on our website. The following individuals were recognized for their contributions.

2022 UConn Master Gardener Acorn to Oak Award

Marlene Mayes

Marlene Mayes has been a constant at the Foodshare Garden at Auerfarm for the last two decades. She and the garden both began their Master Gardener relationship in 2004 when then-intern Marlene was one of the initial volunteers who dug, planted and nurtured the first rows of vegetables in a former hayfield at the Bloomfield farm. From those humble beginnings Marlene dreamed, encouraged, cajoled, taught and inspired literally hundreds of volunteers – both Master Gardeners and others – to help build the 50+ bed garden that exists today.

Throughout the years, Marlene has introduced countless would-be gardeners to the skills and satisfaction of growing healthy food, both for themselves and for those in need. The garden has yielded over one ton of food annually for Foodshare in several recent years, and volunteers from all walks of life have discovered the pleasures and the satisfaction of providing for those in need in our communities.

This year, as the garden undergoes a major renovation and upgrade, it is only fitting to honor the person who has been the constant, the rock, the teacher and the inspiration with the Extension Master Gardener Acorn to Oak Award.

2022 UConn Master Gardener Project Pollinator Award

Katherine Kosiba

Look carefully at almost any public garden project in the Colchester area and you will find that Katherine Kosiba was there at the beginning. A Master Gardener since 2007, Katherine has shared her passion for gardening and the environment with anyone and everyone who has shown an interest. Both as president of the Colchester Club and as a Colchester resident, her enthusiasm and inclusive attitude is on display throughout the area. Town parks, senior centers public road medians and the library are all beautified and ecologically healthier sites with diverse gardens and plantings spearheaded by Katherine.

Master Gardeners interns in the Haddam office are also the beneficiaries of Katherine’s energy and generosity as she guides many of them through their first outreach projects, demonstrating not only the nitty-gritty gardening details, but also the organizational and planning skills that are crucial to a successful endeavor. Additionally, she has provided many a nervous Master Gardener with a welcoming venue for their first public talk!

For her tireless efforts developing so many projects and moving from one to the next, and the next, we are delighted to present Katherine Kosiba with the Extension Master Gardener Project Pollinator Award.

2022 CLIR (Center for Learning in Retirement) Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award

Compton Rees

Compton passed away on March 14 shortly after being told of his recognition for his longtime service to CLIR.  Compton is a charter member of CLIR joining immediately after his retirement as a UConn English professor.  Over almost 30 years as a member of CLIR, he has presented many classes on Shakespeare’s works and served for years as a member of the CLIR Executive Council including as vice-president several times.

Howard Raphaelson

Howard has been a CLIR member for 25 years, serving on the CLIR Executive Council as Treasurer for several terms where he worked tirelessly to coordinate CLIR’s bookkeeping with UConn and State of Connecticut accounting practices.

Erika Kares

Erika has been a CLIR member for 24 years with more than a decade of service on the CLIR Executive Council.

2020 UConn 4-H Rising Star Award

Stephanie Bicknell

As a 4-H member Stephanie participated in many of the local, state and regional activities which support the 4-H dairy project.  She became a volunteer shortly after aging out as a member and has taken on major leadership with her club “Herds ‘R Us” and serves as the organizational leader.  She also continues to work with the Middlesex & New Haven 4-H Fair and serves as a Fair Program Advisor – one of the key volunteers working with the 4-H Fair Association and the Extension 4-H Staff.  She supports all of the tenets of the 4-H program and epitomizes what the experience in the 4-H program provides for a young person.

Stephen Gustafson

Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club.  The Paca Pals are an alpaca club.   Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agricultural 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 of the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) greenhouse and vocational program.   The work of CLCC is to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together.  Steve has been instrumental in fostering a partnership between the 4-H club and CLCC.  Working with CLCC the 4-H club members learn vocational skills and working with diverse populations.  Steve is able to weave science, healthy living and civic engagement into all aspects of the 4- H program through his dedication and hard work.

Megan Hatt

Megan has been a leader of the Happy Hoofbeats 4-H club since 2015.  She is passionate about 4-H and horses.   She is a positive influence on both the county horse program as well as the public speaking program.  Megan is always ready to put teams together and arrange practice for the state horse contests and has served as the coach for 4-H teams participating in the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup.  She is very involved in the New London County 4-H Fair and has helped to create a Horse Exhibition at the fair which includes clinics and games and leadership opportunities for the youth involved.  She is generous with her own horses, time and equipment and believes that 4-H helped her become a successful adult and wants to help others find these benefits as they grow.

2021 UConn 4-H Rising Star Award

Margaret Hall

Peg Hall has been an incredibly active, supportive and positive presence in Litchfield County 4-H since she established the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club 8 years ago.  She has also helped to establish and is serving as a co-leader for a new club, the Grow Getters 4-H club.  This new club, the first horticulture based club in Litchfield County drew over 20 new members to its first meeting.  They exist because of Peg’s hard work and determination to help a local garden center owner who is new to 4-H get this club established.  Peg also serves as a Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association director.  Her involvement includes helping to plan and implement the fair as well as cleaning up the fairgrounds.  Peg has also been instrumental in the success of the Operation Community Impact dairy distribution program which provides milk to over 1400 food insecure familes in Litchfield County.

Lauren Manuck

Lauren is an alum of the Hartford County 4-H Program.  She is currently serving as a club leader of the 4-H Clovers.  She has also jumped into action on the county level as well serving as a Hartford County 4-H Advisory Committee member and as a 4-H Fair advisor since 2013.  Within Advisory, Lauren eagerly steps up and takes the lead on projects, ensuring that youth thougout UConn 4-H have numerous opportunities to participate in activities beyond the club level.   She has been instrumental in the success of the Nutrition and Food Show, Hartford County Teen and Volunteer Banquet and Awards Night to name a few.  She was a recipient of the 2020 Winding Brook Community Service Award for her efforts in assisting with the Operation Community Impact milk and ice cream distribution in Hartford County.  She continues to see opportunities to provide nutrition education and work with youth.

2020 UConn 4-H Hall of Fame Award

Colleen Augur

Colleen is the organizational leader of one of New Haven County’s largest and most active 4-H clubs.  Colleen works with 4-5 registered 4-H volunteers conducting 4-H meetings and teaching the youth how to care and manage their animals which are primarily dairy and beef. The member’s involvement does not stop at the club level.  Yearly, they have 100 percent participation in the 4-H fair ad campaign, showing at the 4-H fair and other county activities.  Her teen members become managers, superintendents and officers in the 4-H fair on a regular basis.  Colleen often provides project animals from her own herd for members without animals of their own, helping the members transport their project animals to and from the fair.  Colleen shares her love of farming, agriculture and 4-H with youth and the general public.  She is a great example of what youth can learn and achieve with hard work and responsibility.

Stephen and Nancy Hayes

Some people choose to join 4-H, other, such as the Hayes family, are born into it.  Stephen and Nancy Hayes have made a lifelong commitment to 4-H.  Both are guiding forces for the Granby 4-H club and have been instrumental in many other aspects of the Hartford County 4-H Program.  Nancy has served the goat program in Hartford County and UConn 4-H extensively.  For 15 years Nancy has been instrumental in the very successful UConn 4-H Goat Day.  In 2017 a robotics team was formed as part of Granby 4-H. Stephen became involved as a mentor to members, sharing his programming knowledge.  Shortly after that Nancy became involved.  Both Stephen and Nancy spend hundreds of hours meeting several times a week with the youth members.  They are both skilled in empowering the youth to make decisions, allowing them to safely ask questions without hesitation, make mistakes, master their skills, then celebrate the successes as a team and individuals.

2021 UConn 4-H Hall of Fame Award

Wendy Kennedy

For over 35 years Wendy has been an active part of the success of the Litchfield County 4-H Program.  She grew up in Litchfield County 4-H and has been the co-leader of the Busy Farmers 4-H Dairy Club for over 20 years.  As a club leader Wendy makes sure her members hold regular meetings, participate in county and state-wide activities and that members are learning something while having fun. She has served as a director on the county 4-H Fair Association for many years.   She serves on the Board of Directors for the Litchfield County 4-H foundation and has held many leadership positions on the foundation board.  She has volunteered to chaperon many county and state-wide 4-H trips and was also involved in the Operation Community Impact dairy distribution project providing over 1400 food insecure families with dairy products.  Wendy embodies the true spirit of 4-H in everything that she does.

Patricia Miele Bianchi

Pat grew up in a home where 4-H was a significant component of daily life and she was an active and enthusiastic 4-Her.  She served as a club leader for 18 years and helped foster an interest in 4-H in many youth including her own children.  Pat served as a Hartford County 4-H Camp Trustee holding numerous officer positions and participating on many committees.  In addition to her work with 4-H camp, Pat is involved as a Director within the Hartford County 4-H Fair Association.   Pat’s county-wide contributions include judging for the Nutrition and Food show, the Fashion Review as well as for the County and State Public Speaking Contests.  Her experience with Toastmasters has contributed to the learning of public speaking contestants.  On a broader level, Pat was active in the College’s Strategic Visioning process.  She uses her first-hand experiences as a 4-H’er and volunteer to champion the positive impact that 4-H has on the lives of young people.

2020 4-H Salute to Excellence – Volunteer of the Year Regional Winner

Stephen Gustafson

Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club.  The Paca Pals are an alpaca club.   Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agricultural 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 of the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) greenhouse and vocational program.   The work of CLCC is to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together.  Steve has been instrumental in fostering a partnership between the 4-H club and CLCC.  Working with CLCC the 4-H club members learn vocational skills and working with diverse populations.  Steve is able to weave science, healthy living and civic engagement into all aspects of the 4- H program through his dedication and hard work.

2021 4-H Salute to Excellence – Lifetime Volunteer Regional Winner

June Zoppa

June is a positive and integral part of the 4-H community in Hartford County.  She is the only volunteer who serves or has served simultaneously on the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Board, Hartford County 4-H Fair Association and the Hartford County 4-H Camp, Inc. Board of Trustees along with being a club leader.  Within her 4-H club, June works patiently with club members as they learn to master sewing projects.  Many judges have rewarded the projects submitted by June’s club with ribbons, special honors, and awards.  In addition, a major component of June’s 4-H experience is built upon community service and leadership development.  June’s involvement as Fair Advisor includes helping the Fundraising Committee plan and execute an ambitious fundraising drive.  She supports the youth in assessing decisions required to promote, design and print the premium book, roll out the sponsorship campaign and additional fundraisers.  Her work ethic and compassion for youth has been demonstrated since her initial days in 4-H and has been evident in the relationships she has formed with members, parent, volunteers and mentees.

2021 4-H Salute to Excellence – Volunteer of Year Regional Winner

Rachael Manzer

Rachael Manzer exemplifies science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 4-H.  She understands the importance and need for STEM and Agricultural Literacy, and she has increased opportunities for STEM learning by establishing the only 4-H Vex Robotics program in New England.  This robotics program has its own “Cinderella” story – big dreams, few resources and the amazing efforts of many to make it a success.  Out of approximately 12,500 teams across the world, about 500 earn a spot to compete in the World Championship.  At VEX World Championship, the largest robot competition in the world, teams from around the world compete. Rachael’s robotics program acheieved this honor three times.  Rachael is also a very accomplished educator, astronaut and STEM teacher.  She uses these experiences, knowledge, skills and networks to enhance the experiences and opportunities for her 4-H club members.

2022 – 4-H Salute to Excellence – Volunteer of the Year State Winner

Margaret Hall

Peg Hall has been an incredibly active, supportive and positive presence in Litchfield County 4-H since she established the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club 8 years ago.  She has also helped to establish and is serving as a co-leader for a new club, the Grow Getters 4-H club.  This new club, the first horticulture based club in Litchfield County drew over 20 new members to its first meeting.  They exist because of Peg’s hard work and determination to help a local garden center owner who is new to 4-H get this club established.  Peg also serves as a Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association director.  Her involvement includes helping to plan and implement the fair as well as cleaning up the fairgrounds.  Peg has also been instrumental in the success of the Operation Community Impact dairy distribution program which provides milk to over 1400 food insecure familes in Litchfield County.

2022 – 4-H Salute to Excellence – Lifetime Volunteer Regional Winner

Carol Ann LeBlanc

Carol’s 52 year 4-H volunteer career began in 1970 when she wanted to expand upon her early 4-H experiences.  She has established three 4-H clubs, including Snoopy’s Pals 4-H Club, serving youth from Connecticut and Massachusetts and she served in numerous other county, state and regional roles.  Members of Carol’s club have earned showmanship championships, AKC certifications, record book awards, leadership medals and county fair fundraising awards.  Club members have served in county Fair Association roles and as delegates for various award trips.  With Carol’s careful guidance and commitment to positive youth development, club members and mentees demonstrate the traits of independence, confidence, leadership and perseverance. Carol’s leadership on the New England 4-H Dog Committee, and her pioneering partnership with the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E), has ensured a three-day, two night 4-H dog program during The Big E.  Carol has been a tireless 4-H volunteer who leads by example.  Her compassion for youth has been demonstrated since her initial days in 4-H.

Dr. Larry Pennington: 23 Years of Volunteering to the UConn 4-H Program

Volunteers are the backbone of the UConn 4-H program and are who keep the program vibrant. “Volunteer helps grow true leaders” Dr. Larry Penington of the First Town Veterinary Science 4-H Club of Hartford County 4-H has volunteered 23 years of service to this program. An interview was conducted with him and below are his responses… 

Emily Syme: How did you learn about this Extension volunteer program? 

Larry PenningtonDr. Larry Pennington: I have been familiar with the extension program and 4-H dating back to my youth in the early 60’s. I grew up as a 4-Her and at age 8, I even had a grand champion pig at my first county fair in Ohio. I was never lucky enough to pull that off again, but I was so appreciative of the wonderful learning experiences like that as a youngster. I have 4-H to thank for help shaping me ever since and to evolve into the person that I am today. Fast forward to 1998, I was introduced to UConn 4-H and the UConn Extension system for the first time. I had been a small animal practicing veterinarian in Windsor, and was challenged by a friend to start up a veterinary science 4-H club and introduce young people to what my profession had to offer. This was an opportunity to give back to the community after I received so much while growing up. Hence, “The First Town Veterinary Science 4-H Club“ got its start that year. We have flourished every year since; something that’s been one of the most fulfilling things I have accomplished in my life.

ES: What do you do in your role as an Extension volunteer?

LP: As a volunteer, I am all of the following: a leader, a teacher, a coordinator, and best of all, a very proud advisor to many young people. As a volunteer I have put in countless hours with my organization to help it grow and become the educational tool that it is.

ES: Why do you volunteer your time to this Extension program? 

LP: I am often asked that question on why I do it. My emphatic response is always that I do it “for the kids!” Being a parent myself, they really do matter, and being able to guide them and to show them the way, is so gratifying and heartwarming. Just to know that I played a small role in their lives as they grew up, is so comforting and gives me great pride.

ES: How does volunteering with the Extension program benefit you? 

LP: Volunteering through 4-H has allowed me to maintain a connection with young people and to stay relevant. It keeps me young and allows me to be a kid amongst kids, like Peter Pan who never wanted to grow up. At my age, 4-H has been my fountain of youth, where I can make a difference with young people. I hope that their parents see me as a good role model, and in setting a good example of what a warm and caring veterinarian should be.

ES: How do you feel like your volunteer work is making an impact? 

LP: I have always tried to make a positive impact on kid’s lives. I show them through their love for their pets in how to be caring and compassionate to all. We have performed many community service projects over the years and have been impactful to senior citizens in nursing homes through our pets, provided low cost Rabies Vaccination Clinics locally, and partnered with Fidelco  Guide Dogs. What better way to give back to the community!

ES: What is your favorite memory with this Extension program?

LP: My favorite memory in 4-H was our club’s involvement in the Dog Walk in Windsor at an area park. Over a seven year stretch starting 20 years ago and with the help of the surrounding community, our club orchestrated an annual event that brought together many dog lovers. The kids “lived it, ran it and owned it”, and got to see two rescue dogs go into service work with our most famous being, Chance. He was a highly trained Golden Retriever that assisted a local lady that was wheelchair bound. Our club got a lot of wonderful media coverage with the success of our Dog Walk and Chance. More importantly, it’s what the kids took away from that experience.

ES: Do you have any advice for new and current Extension volunteers?

LP: My advice to anyone wishing to volunteer is to follow your heart. Take a leap of faith and get involved with our youth through 4-H. After all, they are our future!

It’s been said that the more we give, the happier we feel. Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity, as it has with me.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Interview edited for space and clarity.

Article by Emily Syme

Volunteer Spotlight: Nate McMullin of Hartford County 4-H Camp

Nate McMullinHartford County 4-H Camp, located on 100 acres in Marlborough, Connecticut has been offering camp experience for over 56 years to youth ranging from age 7 to 15. 4-H camp offers various options and sessions throughout the summer months and hosts small team building events in the off season for teenagers. Bring-your-own horse camp is offered where kids can bring their horse for a week. 4-H camp also offers teen counselor positions which is a great opportunity for youth to learn leadership and responsibility. Nate McMullin serves as a board member for Hartford County 4-H Camp. He volunteers his time by serving on various committees and overseeing the hiring of staff, facility maintenance and programming.

Nate’s love for camp started when he spent many summers as a camper, counselor and then staff member since 1986. He joined the Camp Board in 2011. His love for camp is the reason he volunteers his time to the program. Nate brings a unique perspective to the board since he attended camp in his youth, served in a leadership role as a staff member, and is a parent of camp age kids.  He enjoys being able to see his work be put into motion and what is happening with camp behind the scenes. Nate feels that serving as a volunteer on the board allows him to make an impact and keep camp strong, especially through COVID. He reflects, “I am proud of the work the board has done to have camp reopen for 2021.”

Board members volunteer their time to make camp a better place and serve on various committees. Nate served on the communications and security committee and helped bring Wi-Fi to camp; it previously had no broadband internet and relied on a very expensive mobile hotspot. He used his skills in business technology to create a stable communications network that allowed for camp to have additional security cameras and cover the main buildings of camp with stable internet connection. He is currently working on extending the internet service to cover more acres of camp and all buildings.

COVID offered a challenge to 4-H camp which in a normal year hosts 163 campers every session for 8 weeks throughout the summer. Nate set up an online course system where parents could still register kids for camp for summer 2020. Kids attended online Zoom sessions (similar to what students use in the classroom) along with other digital content that was coordinated by camp staff. Although it didn’t replace the in-person fun campers have every summer, it was still a success. Nate would like to explore more options like this in the future for off-season to keep kids connected with the camp experience all year long. 

Nate is able to contribute his expertise and time to help camp grow and give back. One of his favorite memories of being a volunteer is visiting the camp staff and dining at camp. His experiences have come full circle since he remembers being a camper when the board visited. This time at camp gives him a first hand view of camp at the moment.  When asked if he has any advice for new Extension volunteers, he says to contribute your time if possible there are so many opportunities to do so and every little bit helps!

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Kenton

people standing at a table talking
Steve Kenton, center, in the blue jacket, discusses CLIR at a UConn event in 2015.

UConn Extension’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Volunteers work to put together interesting speakers for various sessions through the year. One of these volunteers is CLIR President, Dr. Steve Kenton. With the help of the CLIR Council, a volunteer board, Dr. Kenton directs and oversees the CLIR program.

Dr. Kenton is a 1964 UConn alumnus in the Department of Mathematics and has led a busy life. He went on to graduate school and then became a Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Eastern Connecticut State University where he also served as the Head of the Mathematics Department until he retired in 2008. He spent two years as a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and had various sabbaticals in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Thailand. Dr. Kenton enjoys learning new things throughout his life. He always stayed connected with UConn, serving as a self-defense instructor for the Women’s Center, becoming involved in the CLIR program, and most recently, working with the Alumni Center arranging a 50th reunion for the Allen House Alumni. 

Steve first learned about CLIR through colleagues who were members of this Extension program. He started participating in CLIR workshops right after he retired in 2008.  He has now served as the President of the program for the past eight years! Some of his duties include recruiting speakers for the workshops. This might sound like a daunting task but Steve has great volunteers on the CLIR Council who help him with most of the work. Every season there is an impressive line-up of highly educated speakers who cover a wide variety of interesting topics. Each year CLIR offers 3 sessions (Winter, Spring, and Fall) that consist of around 25 single and a few multi-week classes. He can also always rely on the UConn Extension staff to help make a successful program. The most popular classes of CLIR participants are topics on history and political science. Steve volunteers his time because he likes supporting  a community of like minded lifelong learners like himself. He remarks, “As one ages, it is increasingly important to interact socially, and to be of service.”

Steve is making an impact by ensuring the CLIR Council runs smoothly and positions themselves within the overall mission of UConn Extension. With his help CLIR is financially stable. His favorite impression is when the speakers happily realize the CLIR audience are not just passive listeners–rather, they eagerly interact with the presenter.  Steve can’t pinpoint a favorite speaker he has listened to through CLIR since they are all excellent but one of his most memorable classes was when Rebecca Lobo, a beloved UConn Basketball alumna, spoke to the largest audience in attendance of over 75 people (pre-pandemic). When asked if he has any advice for Extension volunteers, Steve said “Take pride in being of service to your community of interest.” It’s important to go into volunteering having a goal so you can enhance your group’s role. He also mentions that, “With the critical continuing support of the UConn Extension staff and volunteers from among our membership, CLIR has a bright future as part of the Extension family.”

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

Carol LeBlanc: 50-Years of Service to the UConn 4-H Program

4-H cloverA volunteer is defined as someone that donates their time to participate in a cause or program. UConn 4-H is the Extension youth development program and has thousands of volunteers across Connecticut that help us provide programming to over 18,000 youth, annually. Since 1970, Carol LeBlanc has been a UConn 4-H Volunteer with the Snoopy’s Pal 4-H Dog Club, located in Suffield.

The Hartford County 4-H program recognized Carol for her 50 years of service on Saturday, November 7th, with a socially distanced presentation in front of the 4-H Club followed by a county-wide virtual recognition ceremony on Sunday, November 8th.

She is deeply committed to implementing the motto of 4-H which is to “Make the Best Better”.  Carol continues to adapt her club programming to accommodate all youth, to provide new opportunities for youth to learn and develop their dog skills and self-confidence, as well as to ensure that youth are maximizing and enjoying their 4-H experiences.

“Carol is dedicated to the providing opportunities for 4-H youth to expand their knowledge of dog training and management” says Jennifer Cushman, UConn Extension 4-H Educator in Hartford County. “Carol’s leadership extends beyond the county level to various New England 4-H Programs. She has also served as an adult Advisor to the county 4-H Fair Officers who plan and implement the annual 4-H Fair and as a member of the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Committee.”

“Carol, on behalf of the numerous 4-H youth who have been able to learn from you, their parents and your fellow volunteers, congratulations on your 50 years of service, and thank you,” Cushman says.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Jack and Mavis Collins: 90-Years of Combined Service to the UConn 4-H Program

Jack and Mavis CollinsA volunteer is defined as someone that donates their time to participate in a cause or program. UConn 4-H is the Extension youth development program and has thousands of volunteers across Connecticut that help us provide programming to over 18,000 youth, annually. Jack and Mavis Collins of Enfield have been volunteering with the UConn 4-H program for a combined 90-years.

The Hartford County 4-H program recognized Jack for his 55 years of service and Mavis for 35 years of service on Sunday, November 8th with a socially distanced presentation at the Collins’ Powder Hill Dairy Farm followed by a county-wide virtual ceremony.

Jack was a member of the Merry Moo-ers 4-H club as a youth and started volunteering while he was an animal science student in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Mavis grew up on a dairy farm in England and came to the United States with the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) Program. Both volunteered while their four children were 4-H members and have continued serving the program.

The true impact of the 90-years of volunteerism that Jack and Mavis have given to 4-H is in the youth that have benefitted from their dedicated service. All are welcomed into the Collins family and 4-H is part of their lives. They have served as teachers, role models, and mentors. Jack and Mavis share their love of animals and help youth grow into the best versions of themselves.

“The volunteer resumes of Jack and Mavis Collins go far beyond their service as club leaders to the Merry Moo-ers 4-H Club and the Powder Hill 4-H Equestrian Club,” says Jennifer Cushman, the UConn Extension 4-H Educator in Hartford County. “They have volunteered with the Fair Association, at the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, 4-H Camp, and the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE). Their contributions to the dairy cattle program area have made the best better for thousands of 4-H youth dairy project members.”

“You’ve been an inspiration to both 4-Hers and leaders alike, and an inspiration to generations of 4-Hers,” says Jennifer Syme, a 4-H alumna, parent, and volunteer. “We’re so grateful for you and your service.”

“Jack and Mavis, on behalf of the past and present Hartford County 4-H member, their parents, your fellow volunteers across the county, the state, and across New England, congratulations on reaching this milestone in your 4-H volunteer careers, and thank you,” Cushman says.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.