ATHENS, Ga. — Throughout the week of April 19, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is honoring the thousands of volunteers who facilitate 4-H, Master Gardener and Family and Consumer Sciences programming on the county, district and state levels for Volunteer Appreciation Week.
For the 2018-2019 program year, Georgia 4-H adult and teen volunteers from across the state devoted more than 218,900 hours — at a value of $5.6 million — to the development of youth through 4-H programming. These hours were cumulated by 7,787 adult and teen 4-H volunteers including more than 3,300 adult chaperones at district and statewide events, 2,010 teen leaders assisting with programs, 1,073 certified project achievement judges, 326 youth club leaders for local and statewide programming and many other critical roles.
“I love watching our kids grow at each event,” says Debbie Thigpen, Montgomery County 4-H volunteer. “They teach me something new each time I’m around them. I also enjoy meeting other volunteers and creating new friendships. I’m in my eighth year as a volunteer and plan to continue for as long as 4-H will have me.”
For the 2019 calendar year, Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEVs) from across the state contributed 179,788 hours — at a value of $4.3 million — to support Extension programming in consumer horticulture. These hours were the cumulative product of more than 2,300 MGEVs who meet state criteria for active status. In addition, these volunteers devoted more than 9,900 hours to continuing education to keep their information current and skills sharp.
“The excitement and passion of our MGEVs are contagious and a continual motivation for me to provide resources and opportunities,” said Kendra Stallings, Chattooga County program assistant. “They know so much. I am always learning from them.”
The Family and Consumers Sciences division of Extension reported 7,069 hours of volunteer interaction. More than 1,952 volunteer connections were made by individuals supporting programming in a number of roles, such as teaching food demonstrations and volunteering at the senior center, assisting with event management, soliciting donations, and many other important roles for Georgians around the state.
Several volunteers have been recognized for their achievements and dedication to volunteerism. Cisco Damons, a longtime Georgia 4-H volunteer, was honored as the 2019 National 4-H Council’s Southern Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year. In addition, Master Gardener Extension Volunteers in Cobb County were recognized during the 2019 International Master Gardener Conference with the David Gibby Search for Excellence Award in the Research Category. These and countless other outstanding volunteers throughout the state are the reason why Extension is taking the time to honor these individuals.
The week of celebration will include a social media campaign that will spotlight key volunteers and their contributions to program areas, interviews with volunteers about their experience with their respective organizations and a video conference for volunteers to share their memories as a group.
“Extension Volunteers are a true inspiration,” says Keri Hobbs, UGA Extension 4-H specialist for volunteer development. “I wish we could celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week every week. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled that we’ll recognize and appreciate Extension volunteer service throughout our organization. They are mission-critical and essential to our success. They extend the capacity of our programs so that we can make a larger impact and reach more Georgians through our programs.”
UGA Extension translates the science of everyday living for farmers, families and communities to foster a healthy and prosperous Georgia. For more than a century, we’ve provided research and education through a network of committed specialists, agents and volunteers to help Georgians learn, grow and do more. To contact your local county Extension office and become involved, visit extension.uga.edu.
–Austin Clark, Georgia 4-H