We attended the Walnut Creek District 4-H Day at Ness City High School the first of March. I was asked to judge the readings that day. 4-H Days are conducted each year, giving local 4-H individuals and 4-H clubs the opportunity to compete in talent events such as dance, skits, talks, demonstrations, music and model meetings.

The judge determines the top in each area, placing ribbon values on the performance and offering support and ideas for improvement if needed. The winners then will go on to perform in a regional 4-H Day.

When we were at Ness City, many memories of 4-H club activities came to mind. We remembered when our family participated in Ellis County 4-H Day, picking an event, planning, participating and making posters. Our children learned to present talks, give demonstrations and were part of club skits and model meetings. 4-H Day was an important event each year.

Just what is a 4-H club? Kansas 4-H is a youth leadership program under the direction of the Kansas State University Research and Extension. Ellis County 4-H'ers receive guidance and help from the Ellis County Extension service. They learn by doing. Their pledge represents the meaning of the Hs on the four leaves of the green clover symbol: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living. For my club, my community, my country and my world." They also strive to live up to the motto "to make the best better."

4-H used to be thought of as a club for country farm kids only -- "cooking and cows." That might have been the way it was in 1924 when the first Kansas 4-H club in Lincoln County was chartered, but not anymore.

Back then, no one could have foreseen the number of alumni of Kansas 4-H clubs would exceed 500,000; that by 1976, Kansas would have more 4-H members with city and town addresses than those with rural addresses; or that there would be as many as 78 different projects or learning experiences available to all youth, rural or urban. This information was taken from "History of Kansas 4-H 1906-1993" by Betty Law Denton and Merle L. Eystone.

We want to share this quote by Dr. Glenn M. Busset, State 4-H Leader emerities, 1966 to 1981:

"The most exciting educational ideas of this century -- a movement that spread across the state and influenced the lives of people by the thousands -- 4-H influenced not only the boys and girls with their projects, but their parents and an unknown number of selfless men and women who agreed to serve as volunteer leaders."

This quote got us thinking about the 15 years we were parents of 4-H'ers and served as leaders. We encourage seniors to share their time, experience and talent. Donna Maskus, Ellis, 4-H project leader coordinator, also extends an invitation -- 4-H'ers want you to be 4-H volunteer.

You will be rewarded in working with our future leaders, make new friends and have fun. You can make a difference in our community by helping teach life skills to our youth.

Gordon Hibbard, president of the Kansas 4-H Foundation, said it best: "4-H develops a positive self concept, decision-making skills, good management of interpersonal relationships and an invigorating and inquiring mind"

In a sense, it's about these boys and girls becoming productive, positive contributors to our society as leaders, employees, business owners, teachers and neighbors.

Youth need caring adults to help guide their learning in 4-H projects, to set goals and having fun doing it. If you would like to help them develop the six C's -- competence, confidence, connection, character, caring and contribution -- contact Susan Schlichting, Ellis County 4-H agent, for more information at 601 Main or (785) 628-9430.

We will close with this thought by Leo Buscaglia: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around.

Be a 4-H volunteer.

Jim and Opal Flinn, Ellis, are members of the Generations Advisory Group.