South Dakota 4-Hers donated more than 19,000 pieces of clothing to neighbors in need as part of the Head-to-Toe statewide service project launched in 2016.
Organized by the South Dakota 4-H Youth Council, the annual service project provides an opportunity for 4-H members to give back to their communities, explained Amber Erickson, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Field Operations Coordinator.
"4-H proudly promotes service learning," Erickson said. "Each year the Youth Council selects a project youth from all counties across the state can become involved in to create a state-wide impact."
To add some friendly competition to the service project, counties competed to see which could donate the most pieces of clothing. Tripp County won, donating nearly 7,000 pieces of clothing.
The club responsible for this win was the Clovervale Club, collecting 6,962 pieces of clothing and distributing them to 15 community organizations, shelters, non-profits and state agencies to help meet community members' clothing needs.
"When we went to the shelters to donate and we saw people who do not have what we have, it made me happy to see that I could go out of my way to help someone else other than myself," said Ryan Sell, 14.
Although their entire 4-H club was involved, Sell, together with his brother, Clay and good friend, Rowdy Moore, were the members who dedicated the most time to the endeavor - meeting for about three hours every other Friday for five months to sort clothing donated to the Tripp County Extension Office.
"It was a huge time commitment. I figured it would be a one-time collection and delivery, but then clothes kept coming," explained Jill Sell, Ryan and Clay's mom.
4-H's service to others focus, is a big reason the regional manager for South Dakota Department of Social Services enrolled her sons in the program. "I want my kids to grow up and not be self-absorbed. They need to be willing to help and be involved," Jill explained.
Because of Jill's work, her sons knew that there are many South Dakotans in need, however, it was not until Clay, participated in the Head-to-Toe service project, that he really understood what his mom meant when she told her sons they were fortunate.
"I saw the people at one of the places we dropped off clothing and was like, whoa, this is what it means not to have what you need. My mom would tell us that we have a lot compared to some, but I never actually witnessed that," explained Clay, 12 and seventh grader at Winner School District.
Clay added that because Winner does not have school on Fridays, spending time with his brother and good friend, made the time away from class fun.
"I get bored easily. This kept me busy," Clay said.
His friend, Rowdy Moore agreed.
"It was fun to spend time with the Sells and it felt good to help people because they don't have the stuff we do," Moore, also a seventh grader explained.
Hands for Larger Service
Service to others has been part of 4-H mission since the beginning of the organization more than a century ago, explained Laura Kahler, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor - Gregory and Tripp Counties.
"It's right here in the 4-H Pledge. 4-H has a lot of resources for volunteers and youth to connect them to projects to help their communities," Kahler said. "I am wowed by the quantity of clothing this club was able to gather and distribute and by the time the youth dedicated to the project."
Tripp County did win the state-wide competition. They county will be presented with a plaque and a $50 in 4-H Mall (shop4-h.org) credit the Tripp County 4-H Youth Program Advisor can utilize to cover costs of materials for county programming.