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4-H to continue without county help in 2010

Nicole Rucker, president of the Valley Shamrocks 4-H Club, and Ellie Voss, treasurer, won't be in 4-H next year because they are headed to the University of Wisconsin at River Falls to study to be veterinarians. But they want 4-H to continue so other kids can benefit as they did.

Last September Washington County commissioners cut county funding for 4-H programs. They said 4-H should look for a new funding model, according to Ann Church, 4-H youth programs coordinator through the University of Minnesota Extension.

In September, one of two coordinator positions will be eliminated leaving one coordinator and a part-time staff person.

When combined with the cost of programs, the cost of continuing 4-H in the county is $110,000.

That will be funded in 2010 with 4-H reserve funds, money from 4-H Clover Gala, enrollment fees and various fundraisers including a food stand at the upcoming Washington County Fair, Church said.

Rucker and Voss said last week they hope the county board will come to its senses and at least partially fund 4-H in 2011.

In the meantime, Church, and those who support "Save Washington County 4-H," chaired by Dan Dolan, aren't waiting for that to happen.

Church said 4-H coordinators are talking to townships about funding and Dolan's group is soliciting donations at

Many 4-H Shamrock chapter members lease horses at Windy Ridge Ranch owned by Mark Ward and his wife, Katie Clapp.

"They are huge supporters of 4-H," said Rucker.

She became a much better rider through 4-H by listening to older members and getting tips, she said.

"There are different styles of riding," Rucker said. "It's helped me figure out what's best for me."

Voss said she learned a lot about riding from attending 4-H sponsored Horse Camp.

"I would miss horse camp and competing in horse shows and clinics during the county fair," she said.

Shamrock chapter members, including Morgan Pliszka and Jenny Finch, are looking forward to competing at the fair.

"Once I joined 4-H, I loved it," Finch said. "I grew so much."

Pliszka said she was drawn to 4-H for the social benefits of meeting new people and making friends who love horses as much as she does.

"Without 4-H, I wouldn't be as devoted to horses as I am now," she said.

Sam Edholm, vice-president of the Shamrocks, lives in an urban area like many of the club's members.

Edholm said participating in 4-H has given her an appreciation of rural life that she might not otherwise have had.

Being a member has given her many opportunities to learn about leadership, Edholm said.

"We don't get that in school anymore," Edholm said. "We also love horses and want to be with people who do. We have a passion for this."

The 4-H Shamrock members ride in horse shows, they will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 28, the day before the fair opens and all day on July 29, the opening day.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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