Commentary by by Tech. Sgt. Beth Norman
213th Space Warning Squadron
CLEAR AIR FORCE STATION, Alaska — The Furred and Feathered Friends 4-H Club, led by 213th Space Warning Squadron Airmen and local family members, is entering its third year as an official 4-H Club. Service clubs inspire children to improve their community by getting involved.
An average of 12 Clear Airmen and civilians supports this program on an annual basis, with others in the community supporting through donations at various fund raisers.
We started the club to expose the youth in the local communities of Nenana, Anderson, and Healy to the joys of community involvement. Furred and Feathered Friends is a general membership club that does not focus on any one particular project area so members are able to work on projects they find interesting. Currently, club members are involved in various projects involving firearms safety, gardening, pets, writing, baking and livestock.
We also lead various community service projects such as planting and maintaining flower beds and boxes throughout Nenana, roadside and playground cleanup, and cleaning Nenana ball fields throughout the summer. Furred and Feathered Friends also serve as 4-H ambassadors at local bazaars, festivals and on family days.
Furred and Feathered Friends didn’t start out as a fundraising club – instead, we focused on teaching members about 4-H. As members became more involved and interested beyond the club level, we began looking at ways to defray the cost of attending camps and workshops offered in Fairbanks, Alaska, such as completing small, simple crafts during meetings to sell at local bazaars, along with baked goods and chili. Gabrielle Blair, 16, a club member, has previously won the Grand Champion Award for her wheat bread recipe.
We also began to sponsor petting zoos – local families enjoy and appreciate learning about the different species and breeds of animals and the care involved in raising them. Of course, we take advantage of these opportunities to talk about our club and 4-H to raise awareness and attract new members.
4-H is an excellent opportunity for youth between 5 and 18 years of age to develop leadership and communication skills and become involved in their community on a level not offered in a classroom. Our hands-on learning allows children to explore their environment and enhance their camaraderie.
This past year the Furred and Feathered Friends entered projects in the Tanana Valley State Fair where Miss Blair took the Grand Champion Award for 4-H dogs with her service dog in training. She was also recognized as Class Champion for her baked goods. Elliot Blair, 14, was recognized for Grand Champion in cooking. Simeon Blair, 12, was awarded first prize for his educational display on “how to train a goldfish.” Breland Kiefer, 8, was awarded a trophy for the “Most Outstanding Helper in the Largen Barn.” All of these members also competed in the Open Class which pits them against the adult exhibitors. All of them did very well in the Open Class and took several Class Champion awards.
Community service inspires children to improve their community by getting involved. They learn the importance of community pride, sacrificing time for the common good, and taking pride in a job well done. By supporting our community, members of the Furred and Feathered Friends Club have learned that community service is more than just spending a couple of hours doing something to earn a pat on the back. For us, community service represents pride, selflessness, sacrifice, and inspiring others to follow suit in bettering their local communities.
(Editor’s note: Breland Kiefer is Sergeant Norman’s daughter.)