Preparing 4-H youths for adulthood
By JOLENE STEVENS
HINTON – Voiceless, but with their well-turned pages evident, the 4- H record books ignited memories for one long-time Plymouth County 4-H leader as he looks toward National 4-H Week which gets underway Sunday.
At the same time, the record books sparked hope and determination for third-generation 4-H members, the children of Vince and Madonna Hoefling. Two of the couple’s eight children and two grandchildren were clustered around the kitchen table at the Hoefling farm home northwest of Hinton.
“The neighbor kids were in 4-H when I was growing up,” Vince Hoefling said. “I wanted to be, too. My dad raised hogs at the time. I had no money to buy a hog and just picked one out of the lot to be my project.”
Hoefling, who as a youngster was a member of the Merrill Blue Ribbon 4-H Club, recalled his club showed entire litters rather than a single animal at the Plymouth County Fair.
“I couldn’t wait to get to the fair, to run around, visit with some girls and have a good time,” Hoefling said, “despite the fact exhibiting the litter took a lot of work. We all had a good time.”
For 33 years, Hoefling has served as club leader of the Liberty Perry Pacers 4-H Club in addition to serving 22 years as a member of the Plymouth County fair board and, prior to his retirement in 2005, as fair swine superintendent.
All eight of the Hoefling’s children would subsequently become members of 4-H during their father’s years of leadership.
Fair time, Hoefling said, could be a busy time when all eight found themselves simultaneously involved vying for fair awards with their livestock and other projects.
His years as a club leader, Hoefling said, were meaningful ones.
“My goal as a leader was to not only help members learn the proper way to work livestock, but to learn leadership abilities, responsibility and to help them with any problem.
“You could always tell if you were doing the right things. Kids liked you and asked for your help.
“There were times when I had someone’s father as a club member and later his children and their children,” he added. “A lot of the 4-H members remembered you, and some even today call me ‘Mr. Hoefling’ rather than Vince.”
Son Kevin Hoefling, employed at Magellan Pipe Line, in Sioux City, and daughter, Gail Eliades, of Merrill, smiled as they began sharing their own memories of their 4-H years.
“Our leaders, the others as well as Dad, were good,” said Kevin Hoefling, who was a seven-year 4-H’er. “They kept everyone focused. For them, 4-H was their baby, and they worked hard to help us learn a lot.”
Kevin Hoefling points to summers in the 1970s and 1980s, with higher rural populations and smaller farms.
“Although you knew there was a lot of hard work to do, the fair was a summer highlight for 4-H members like myself,” he said.
He recalled his mother was also kept busy keeping her young fair exhibitors properly clothed for the week.
“She was the one who had the loads and loads of laundry to do overnight for the next day,” Hoefling said, “and the one who made the shopping trips for new jeans or a cowboy hat if we needed one.”
Gail Eliades was active for nine years in 4-H clubs that were divided by gender.
“Everything about it,” Eliades said, “was fun – the cooking, baking, sewing, refinishing furniture as well as the livestock work. Members getting together, the club meetings and learning how to work are, I feel, an important part of 4-H (and) helpful throughout life.
“This is why I wanted our daughter (Alka, 11) and son (Tommy, 8) to be able to share in the opportunities I had.”
Alka Eliandes, in her third year as a member of the Lucky Liberty Lopers 4-H Club, has already enthusiastically become an active member, sharing the excitement of a reserve champion fair win with a chocolate, chocolate-nut biscotti, her photography and rabbit projects.
A Hinton Community School sixth-grader, Alka – who has aspirations for a NASA career – said that club meetings, often with animals or birds as lesson tools, are part of her favorite 4-H activities.
Tommy Eliades, 8, a Hinton school second-grader, was asked if he, too, intends to join 4-.H.
“I hope so,” was his quick response.
Tommy said his likely project choices might well be rabbits or birds.
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