4-H programs across the country are known for their youth development programs. Now, students in 4-H are taking their civic engagement to the next level by helping others amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We’ve got partnerships with UC Davis and San Francisco medical centers where we’re getting sterile wrap and then young people are recycling that material and making masks for front-line workers, for agriculture laborers, for people working in restaurants," says Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, California's 4-H Director. She says groups across the state are making masks and shields for essential workers and people who need them.
In Sonoma County, several 4-H families spent their time in quarantine putting several 3-D printers to good use.
"We decided to start printing face shields. We printed a few different designs and used the transparency overhead and members of our community joined us. Together we printed over 1,000 face shields and 2,000 neck straps which are the straps that keep the masks off the ears of essential workers," says Jametha Cosgrove of Golden Hills 4-H. The protective gear went to their local essential workers and even nurses and doctors across the state who needed them.
Santa Clara County 4-H ambassador Joey Jacoby put together mask-making kits and is distributing cloth masks to the community as part of his service learning project.
"The masks are just clean, fresh, cotton material so 100% cotton masks," says Jacoby. Jacoby blew away his original goal of 350 masks with the help of numerous donations and other 4-H volunteers. They ultimately produced more than 2,000 masks and face shields and counting.
“We had the distribution event where anyone who had supplies could drive up in their car, open their trunk and then we would place items into their trunk. There was never any contact. We were well over six feet apart the entire time," says Jacoby.
"My job was to sew the bins on and sew the edge," says Aaron Alger, whose sister and parents, all former 4-H students, helped in the project. In total, more than 36 families helped Jacoby put together masks and gather materials, including Karen Clayton, who is a project leader for Stevens Creek 4-H.
"The opportunity to step up and just provide fabric where I quilt, I have too much fabric and I was more than happy to pull some together for Joey and his service learning project. I think a really big lesson that I hope the youth around us got out of this is there’s always something you can do," says Clayton.
Families in 4-H across California say the mask and shield-making experience has helped their kids stay active in 4-H during the pandemic, while still contributing to the community during this uncertain time.