4-H Publications and Projects WSU Extension

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Serving the Community

Engaged Youth Spend Time with Veterans

By Betsy Fradd,
WSU Extension 4-H

While pounding nails for new benches and cleaning up a community garden, Ben Case never dreamed the impact would be so far-reaching. The 17-year-old Bremerton 4-H’er, along with a group of dedicated Kitsap County youth, is discovering using “hands for larger service” is also impacting their hearts and their perceptions of those who came before them.

Over the last year the teens, along with adult volunteers, spent Saturdays and after school hours helping beautify the landscape at the Retsil Veterans Home near Port Orchard. Working closely with many of the 240 residents, youth built benches and picnic tables, and
planted flowers so the men and women who reside there could have a pleasant place to enjoy the view of Puget Sound from their facility.

“The veterans have seen so much and given a lot to our country,” said Ben, who plans on serving in the Navy. “It’s an eye-opener for kids my age to get to know them and understand selflessness.” The project, part of an Engaging Youth Serving Communities
(EYSC) grant, focuses on developing youth leadership and life skills while youth work in partnership with adults to improve local communities. 4-H groups in Asotin, Wahkiakum, and Stevens counties are also involved in community service activities.

“Our youth are learning about taking responsibility and how giving back can affect people’s lives,” said Kelly Fisk, WSU Extension Kitsap County 4-H. “It’s exciting to watch them discover how their empathy and generosity bridges generational differences. The seniors are showing youth how important this interaction is to social and emotional health.” 

4-H’ers are also bonding with residents by creating individual biographies. Through one-on-one interviews, youth are discovering where and when the veterans served, what their interests are and how their lives were impacted by military involvement. Special plaques with personalized information will be hung outside veterans’ doors to honor each resident.

Budgeting, planning and decision making are essential components to the EYSC grant. Youth are integral in each process to determine how funds should be spent and on what activities. Recently the Kitsap County group decided to expand their involvement with the Retsil Veterans Home. In coming months, youth will purchase items for care packages for current members of the military. The 4-H’ers, along with the seniors, will fill bags with playing cards, Frisbees, handwipes, snacks, flip flops, and other much appreciated items from home.

Many of the Kitsap County teens plan to continuing working with the Retsil residents in the future. “It’s very fulfilling to do this,” said Ben. “I’m coming back as an adult and building relationships for a lifetime.” 

Kitsap County 4-H: http://county.wsu.edu/kitsap/youth/Pages/default.aspx

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Contact Us, Toll Free: 866-458-0196; Pullman Office: 509-335-2981; Puyallup Office: 253-445-4550
WSU Extension State 4-H Office, P.O. Box 646248, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6248 USA