Heart of 4-H Award Winners

Thank you for helping make a difference!

Mary Ann Gabel
January: Mary Ann Gabel

Mary Ann has been a 4-H volunteer for 17 years, formerly as leader of the Sunshine Clover 4-H club and currently as leader of independent members. She also has helped at 4-H Council’s “Corner Stop” food booth at the Lancaster County Super Fair for several years.

She says, “I like being a 4-H volunteer because I want to help children explore their talents while working on projects; encourage them to volunteer for community service and become community leaders; and enhance their confidence when they participate in 4-H contests. My favorite experience as a 4-H volunteer is helping 4-H’ers prepare for presentations and table setting contests and then seeing the ‘wow’ moment when they do a great job. I enjoy helping at the 4-H Corner Stop food booth because I get acquainted with other 4-H parents and members. It’s also fun to be at the Super Fair!”

Karen and John Cooper
February: Karen and John Cooper

Six years ago, the Coopers started helping with the Pick-A-Pig 4-H club. When their daughters wanted to do more projects, Karen and John helped start the Buckles and Bling horse club of which Karen and Pam Davis are co-leaders. The Coopers are both members of the Horse Volunteers in Program Service (VIPS) Committee and John is a member of the Super Fair 4-H Horse Show Grievance Committee.

They were nominated by Kate Cooper who said, “My mom seems to find time to be a co-leader of our horse 4-H club, run our practices and help teach all the members riding skills. My dad helps out during the hog show without being asked every year. Fair is a really stressful time of year for everyone including them, but they always make an effort to make it a little easier for someone else, even if it makes it harder for themselves.”

Karen and John said, “We enjoy volunteering with 4-H because it is something that we can do as a family and it allows us to share our farming and livestock heritage with our girls and friends. The thing that we enjoy most is watching all of the kids learn how to train their own horses. Same goes for pigs, llamas and chickens — the kids are required to do all the care, practice and preparation for shows, then they can take great pride in their own accomplishments.”

Jill White
March: Jill White

A 4-H volunteer for six years, Jill is one of four superintendents in the 4-H Clothing areas at the Lancaster County Super Fair and helps teach at 4-H sewing workshops. She also helps the Super Shamrocks 4-H club with their sewing projects, their club booth at Kiwanis Karnival, and staffing a shift at the 4-H food booth during the Super Fair.

“I enjoy working with youth, helping them learn new skills and seeing their achievements at the county fair,” says Jill. “These are life skills our youth gain in 4-H that benefit them for their future. I get a sense of pride in seeing youth gain sewing skills, their creativeness and how they progress over the years. All the experiences, skills and friendships gained from 4-H are lifetime treasures. I highly recommend 4-H. It’s never too late to join!”

Dwayne and Joan Wittstruck
April: Dwayne and Joan Wittstruck

Dwayne started in 4-H in 1934 as a member of the Henny Penny poultry club. He and his wife were both leaders of the Rokeby Dairy 4-H club from about 1956–1976. They were both superintendents of the 4-H/FFA Dairy Show at the Lancaster County Fair from about 1970–2000. And they established the Wilhelmina Wittstruck All-Around Horse Award in 1986 — Dwayne continues to present it every year at Horse Awards night (he has only missed one year).

“We like helping kids be the best they can be,” the Wittstrucks said. “Ours was a livestock club, but we put more emphasis on skills outside the show ring — speech, demonstrations, song contests, etc. Every kid in the club had to give a speech. That’s how you build purple ribbon kids. As far as we’re concerned, 4-H’ers are the cream of the crop. We have so many favorite experiences as 4-H volunteers: attending the National 4-H Conference in Chicago, planting trees on Arbor Day weekends at Halsey State Park, County Fair, State Fair, Ak-Sar-Ben, raising $1,000 for the camp at Gretna and seeing our daughter, Laurie, receive a silver platter from President Gerald Ford as the national top girl in 4-H Achievement. And at speech contest, seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces who thought they couldn’t do it, and did.”

Dwayne served six years on the UNL Ag Advisory Board (one year as president), and Joan was the first female president of the Nebraska Council on Public Relations for Agriculture. Dwayne is in his 24th year of coaching boys and girls basketball at Crete Middle School

Rhonda Griess
May: Rhonda Griess

A volunteer for nearly eight years, Rhonda helps with several 4-H clubs: 4-H Explorers, Pick-a-Pig and NBots Robotics. She is a regular instructor at 4-H Clover College. At the Lancaster County Super Fair, Rhonda has helped with static exhibit setup, the 4-H/FFA swine show and at 4-H Council’s food booth. In addition, she has helped with Earth Wellness Festival for 5th graders and Nebraska 4-H’s statewide Premier Animal Science Event (PASE).

“I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm and skills with the young people of our community,” says Rhonda. “My favorite experience as a 4-H volunteer is teaching classes at Clover College in June. No matter what I’m teaching, each class is unique because of the students who attend. Everyone can bring something wonderful and unique to the class, which can be shared with others so that we all benefit from each other.”

"I love the variety of learning opportunities for kids in 4-H, from cooking & sewing, to woodworking to table setting contest, presentations, robotics, public service announcements, to showing livestock. Being part of 4-H has enhanced the lives of everyone in our home!”

Jill Hattan
June: Jill Hattan

Jill has helped with the 4-H home environment areas at the Lancaster County Super Fair for eight years — five years as a superintendent. She has also helped with furniture painting workshops and 4-H Clover College tie dye classes.

“Being a 4-H volunteer gives me a chance to share with kids things that I love to do,” says Jill. “I have always enjoyed arts and crafts and working with kids. My favorite experience as a 4-H volunteer is working one-on-one at the furniture painting workshops, teaching the kids a new painting technique and then watching them perfect it. I love how proud the kids are of their finished project and excited to have something to take to the fair. I have enjoyed teaching and watching these kids grow over the years.”

Angie McClelland
August: Angie McClelland

Angie has been a project leader for the Esprit de Corps 4-H horse club for 10 years. The past three years, she has helped the club organize a dressage schooling show as a fundraiser for the Lancaster County 4-H horse program. Angie also is a member of the 4-H Horse Volunteers in Program Service (VIPS) committee and a level tester for horsemanship level group testings.

“I really enjoy seeing how the kids’ participation in 4-H helps them develop not only good horsemanship skills, but also life skills that will prepare them for future endeavors,” said Angie. “Outside of the riding arena, the kids learn the virtues of hard work, compassion from caring for their animals, public speaking skills, decision making skills, delayed gratification and a host of other wonderful life lessons.”

Michelle Huber
September: Michelle Huber

Michelle has been a 4-H volunteer for 30 years. She is currently 4-H Photography Superintendent at the Lancaster County Super Fair, a parent volunteer with the South Prairie Wranglers 4-H rabbit club and instructor at Clover College. Previously, she volunteered with the horse program for 20 years as a hippology and judging coach, member of Horse VIPS committee and horse judge.

“4-H has been in my family for four generations,” she says. “4-H provides an opportunity for youth to gain leadership experience, citizenship and community service. Participation in 4-H allows youth to develop lifetime skills and played a vital part in my decision to major in Animal Science in the College of Agriculture of Natural Resources at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and compete on the UNL horse judging team. My favorite experience as a 4-H volunteer has been as the Photography Superintendent. I have enjoyed working with the 4-H youth, Extension staff and judges. It’s been a joy to watch youth develop their photography skills, creativity and confidence.”

Cathy Babcock
October: Cathy Babcock

A volunteer for five years, Cathy co-leads the Shamtastic Clovers 4-H Club, which is a Nebraska 4-H Club of Excellence. She has also taught Clover College classes and helped at crochet workshops. Cathy volunteers with her club at the 4-H food booth at the Lancaster County Super Fair.

“I enjoy the opportunity to be involved in 4-H as a family,” she says. “I’m also thankful for the time other 4-H volunteers have invested in my kids. When I’m teaching a new skill, I love that moment when the kids start talking about how they’re going to use that skill to make all sorts of things for everyone they know. It’s always fun to hear their enthusiasm. 4-H was a big part of my life growing up, as it was for my Dad. I love that my kids have the opportunity to experience it as well -- third generation 4-H’ers!”

Sherry Wolf Drbal
November: Sherry Wolf Drbal

A volunteer for four years, Sherry co-leads the Hunter’s Pride 4-H horse club. She helps the club co-superintend the Hunter and Hunter Hack Jumper 4-H horse shows at the Lancaster County Super Fair. Last year, the club hosted two jumping clinics. Each summer, Sherry organizes a one-week horse day camp for Hunter’s Pride members. She is also on the Horse Volunteers in Program Service (VIPS) committee.

“I like being a 4-H volunteer because it is so amazing to watch the children progress in their horsemanship abilities and become confident and independent individuals,” says Sherry. “I so enjoy watching riders progress from barely getting in and out of the arena for a class, to becoming independent with their own horse, and then helping younger riders. I love to see the older members mentoring younger or newer members and sharing the information they have learned. I am awed by the dedication and commitment of 4-H volunteers and Extension staff to these kids, and want to support the effort. My favorite experiences as a 4-H volunteer are summer camp and the county fair.”

Nate Dowding
December: Nate Dowding

Nate goes above and beyond as an operations manager at the Lancaster Event Center to help set up for 4-H events held at the facility. There are four full days of 4-H events at the Lancaster County Super Fair and 4-H events throughout the year, such as clinics and shows. Nate works with the rest of the operations team at the Lancaster Event Center to set up for events (for example: assembling livestock pens, getting tables and display cases from storage, rolling out carpet, setting up sound systems, ordering bedding, etc.). Nate helps during events as additional needs arise.

Cole Meador, extension assistant, says, “Nate never hesitates to gather those last minute things which allow for shows to go on. He is a problem solver and the reason events run smoothly.”

Marty Cruickshank, extension associate, says, “It takes a huge cooperative effort to organize and run the Lancaster County Super Fair. Nate is key in helping the fair run smoothly.”

Tracy Anderson, extension associate, says, "During the Lancaster Super Fair, he strives to ensure all pre-event set up is correct and completed in a timely manner. In addition he determines methods to increase the efficiency of set-up and flow of fair events."

Nate says, “I feel that I have a good working relationship with the 4-H staff. Even though the fair is stressful and a lot of work, we still have time to joke around and have a good time.”