While the pandemic has created some obstacles for 4-H clubs and county officials to navigate, University of Minnesota Extension, Goodhue County Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development Aly Kloeckner says local clubs have done a good job adapting.
County officials in the southern region are hard at work putting together virtual alternatives, following the University of Minnesota Extension’s decision to cancel in-person events, meetings and courses through June 30.
“We are working diligently to move any programming scheduled between now and the end of June to an online or kit-based format. We will hopefully start rolling those out by June 1,” said Kloeckner. “The clubs have moved meetings to an online format, and have been passing along activities they can do as a family.”
Registration for the Goodhue County Fair, set to take place Aug. 11-15, has been pushed back from May 16 to June 2. 4-H’ers have until July 8 to enter projects for the fair. Other fair preparations have proceeded as usual, such as printing of premium books, a document which lays out all policies and activities relating to 4-H at the Goodhue County Fair, and the hiring of judges.
“We’re going ahead as planned, we’ve heard no indication from the fair board that they are making any changes,” said Kloeckner.
As 4-H members continue to prepare their projects for the fair, Kloeckner says the county is also urging families to help out in their communities, while practicing social distancing.
“We’re encouraging families to make masks, much like other organizations,” said Kloeckner. “We are also really asking them to reach out to those in their communities, whether it be to neighbors or relatives, drawing pictures to put in their windows or to give to those in nursing homes. We’re really trying to encourage at home service.”
For local 4-H clubs, such as the Holden Hi-Lites, reaching out to the community and getting ready for the fair is just what they are doing.
Holden Hi-Lites Club Leader Dana Ostertag says 4-H’ers in their club are staying busy by helping the community and preparing for the county fair.
Families, such as the Douville’s have been busy making and donating over 100 masks to nursing homes and those in need. Ostertag also says several families have volunteered to clean up ditches nearby.
Other Holden Hi-Lites 4-H members are spending more hours of their day in the barn or working livestock. Ostertag says many 4-H’ers have invested a lot of time and/or money into their projects prior to the pandemic.
Member Cody Ostertag says his cattle give him something to do on a daily basis. While he is eager to get to his next cattle show, he understands showing livestock is so much more than the show ring, as owning livestock comes with a lot of responsibility, hardwork, determination and enjoyment.
“Although 4-H events and meetings have been canceled until June 30, we are moving forward with 4-H projects just like any other year,” said Dana. “Virtual meetings are being attended, families are contributing to help the community and livestock is being worked with.”
On April 20, Kloeckner posted a video on Goodhue County’s 4-H Facebook page encouraging 4-H clubs to celebrate National Volunteer Week, from April 19-25, by reaching out to those in their communities and personally thanking them with a message, drawing or photo.
During National Volunteer Week, Dana Ostertag thanked all of Holden Hi-Lites’ “awesome” 4-H families for their volunteer efforts.
“We couldn’t do it without their hard work and dedication to the 4-H program,” she added.
Aspelund Ever-Readies 4-H Club
Aspelund Ever-Readies 4-H Club Amanda Armstrong says since the stay at home order was set in place the club has also held its meetings online.
“It is a nice a way to get the information to the club about what was canceled, rescheduled or even put online and answer any questions,” said Armstrong of the virtual meetings. “The meeting even counted for attendance.”
Prior to the pandemic, the club had planned to put together Easter baskets to donate to local elderly who don’t often get out of the house. Since then, the club found a way to deliver the donated items to local elderly residents in May Day baskets filled with a reusable tote for storage, a deck of cards, a couple pairs of socks, crossword books, a jigsaw puzzle, a hand towel, a blanket and some candy. Donated items were taken to Holden Church where the Armstrong family packaged them. Laura Nesseth will deliver the baskets to the recipients.
“The club members thought of the goods to put in the baskets and many families in the club donated the items,” said Armstrong. “We had a cupid’s auction back in February where our club was to donate items (baked goods, canned pickles, small livestock items like halters or combs) to auction off to others in the club. It is always a fun time as the kids are doing the bidding! This is our fundraiser, so we have money to do community service projects throughout the year.”
Throughout the year, the Aspelund Ever-Readies take part in many community service projects like making tie blankets for the Ronald McDonald House, collecting toys for Toys for Tots, adopting a local family for Christmas and making holiday cards for Kenyon Senior Living residents. During March, members donated nonperishable food to the local food shelf.
“Our club does a great job with the Cloverbuds (ages kindergarten through third grade) in the club,” said Armstrong. “We have an older youth member who has fun activities every couple of months during our monthly meeting for the Cloverbuds.”
Armstrong says many members also present a demonstration at the meeting to help with their public speaking skills, build confidence and “hare” the youth’s knowledge about different topics. In the past, the club has had 4-H’ers show how to properly tag their cattle and how to make Valentine’s Day popcorn. This year, 10 youth presented demonstrations.
“Our club is a great example of the the 4-H pledge,” said Armstrong. “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living, for my family, my club, my community, my country and my world.”
Residents across the state shared their talents and compassion to help those in need on Saturday.
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan launched a week-long statewide drive to encourage Minnesotans to create homemade masks for donation and highlight the importance of workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Minnesotans were encouraged to deliver homemade masks to their local fire station. Fire stations will then deliver the masks to local congregate living facilities for their employees and residents to wear. All 775 fire departments in Minnesota participated.
The Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department shared the news on their Facebook page, inviting all “crafters, sewers and creatives,” to share their talents with others through the form of donating masks.
Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary member Tonya Craig said firefighters and Ladies Auxiliary members took turns spending time at the fire hall collecting masks from area residents Saturday.
A total of 154 colorful, patterned-fabric masks were collected to be donated to area facilities, 72 of which were donated by the mother of Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department’s Chief Lee Skillestad, Vickie. Sue Dodds, another fireman’s wife, also donated masks. Craig says many others from the area, who they didn’t get pictures with, also donated masks.
“The Fire Department will be reaching out to area facilities to gauge their need for masks at this time and will be getting them dispersed!,” said Craig.
Many people across the country have let their creativity run wild to think of ways to help out, either by making homemade masks or ear savers that are used on the masks. Locally, Kenyon Senior Living has seen a great deal of generosity from area residents.
Kenyon Senior Living Director of Nursing Rachel Spillman says people have been “very generous” in donating masks to facility staff. Some she says, have even called for ideas on how they may be able to help if they don’t have any of the needed supplies, such as elastic.
Spillman says many are getting creative with different ways to make masks without elastic, such as using shoe laces as ties or other types of material. A couple masks have also featured lace for ties.
“We’ve gotten some very creative donations,” said Spillman.
More recently, the facility received a generous donation of crocheted ear savers, made and donated by local crafter Bobbie Knealing, of The Secret Window Boutique.
Knealing, who has been participating in craft shows for 30 years, has made over 400 ear savers thus far for friends who are nurses and some who are retail workers. She is currently working on an order for nurses at Mayo Clinic.
“I’ve just told people I’d make them if they need any,” said Knealing. “I always tell them if you need more, let me know.”
Knealing says she originally saw the idea of crocheted ear savers on Facebook after someone posted it in one of her crochet groups. While one ear saver takes Knealing only 15 minutes to make, she says it takes her longer to find something to watch or listen to while making them, as well as finding a pair of buttons in her craft collection.
“It feels good to be able to be helpful. “I’ve been getting a lot of messages that it’s made a huge difference for them,” said Knealing. “I do not let anyone pay me for them. We’ve all got to do our part and help each other get through it, that’s what’s going to make the difference. “
Whether you are making music or listening to it, the well-loved art form takes on many roles.
Although it’s mainly seen as a form of entertainment, music is also known for its healing powers. Long-time musician Ron Kadrlik views music as “connecting,” especially during this time of isolation.
Since early April, Kadrlik has posted a Song a Day on Facebook for his family and friends to enjoy. Kadrlik is well-known in his hometown of New Prague for his passion for playing and writing music. Now a paraproessional at Lincoln Elementary School in Faribault, Kadrlik has lived in Kenyon for the last three years.
He thought of the song a day idea after experiencing countless hours of boredom at home, which he describes as being “just like everyone else.”
While Kadrlik could fill the empty hours at home playing music for himself, he didn’t find it near as much fun as playing in front of an appreciative audience. By posting a song a day on Facebook, Kadrlik has been able to connect with friends and family he normally wouldn’t — specifically those who live outside southern Minnesota.
“It’s been my favorite connection,” added Kadrlik of his new endeavor.
He has heard from friends, cousins, musicians, rugby and football teammates, and Marine Corps buddies, as well as friends in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Connecticut and Ohio.
When it comes to thinking of a new song to post everyday, Kadrlik has no trouble doing so. He credits his musical past for that ability. He began playing drums in fifth grade, but while he started to play guitar in grade school, he didn’t really take up the instrument until about 10 years ago. He played the drums in the Ruggs band for 11 years, and played guitar and sang in the Trouba Troubadours for 10 years.
“I’ve got a number of songs [to play], I also write songs,” said Kadrlik. “Most of my songs are about growing up in New Prague and being Czech.”
Kadrlik ensures he stays connected to his Czech roots through music.
One of his bands — the Trouba Troubadours — contains one Czech word (trouba) which translates to the English word “fool.”
Kadrlik has also written several songs recognizing his Czech heritage, most of which can be found on his CD titled “Hometown: Ron Kadrlik and Kamarádi” which he describes as a “reflection of his roots.” Kamarádi is a Czech word for friends.
The CD is complete with unique, original songs. Three of which are about an evening in Veseli (a small community in Rice County) the stubborn nature of Bohemians (residents of the region of the Czech Republic) and about “waking up and smelling the jitrnice,” a Czech pork sausage.
“The Czech heritage influence of my upbringing is something which defines me to this day,” wrote Kadrlik in his “Hometown” album description.
While many songs are Czech, Kadrlik says he also plays other varieties of music, such as old country: “Heard it in a Love Song,” As Good as I Once Was” and “Try a Little Kindness,” which was dedicated to the doctors, nurses and health care workers who he says are “our heroes.”
Kadrlik and both bands continue to rehearse when time allows and to find a “new” normal, while practicing social distancing. He says there have been a few of the bands’ scheduled events that have been canceled.
“Just like everybody else, it’s affected anyone playing music, and going out, everything’s kind of on hold,” said Kadrlik. “Everyone is practicing from home and anxious to get playing again.”
Even after restrictions are lifted, Kadrlik says he will keep posting a song a day. As for his Facebook audience, he says there is a good music following, as his videos receive anywhere from 100 to as high as 200 views each day.