Sunday, May 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Helen Knieling holds a quilt made with fabric scraps from many 4-H activities at her home in West Salem. She was recently honored for her 50 years of service to 4-H.
June 26, 2012
POLK COUNTY -- The shelves of Helen Knieling's West Salem home are filled with trophies and awards from her children's time in 4-H.
There are a few display cases filled with butterflies from her son's early interest in entomology. She has a treasured quilt, a Christmas gift from a former student, hanging on the wall and cattle also belonging to a son grazing in the fields surrounding her home. Both were the result of interests explored in 4-H with Knieling's help.
"Everything seems to stay here," she said of the trophies.
Perhaps one more plaque should be included -- one recognizing Knieling's more than half century of volunteer work with 4-H.
Polk County Extension recently recognized Knieling and fellow club leader and volunteer Lyny Pheyffer for 50 years of service to 4-H.
"Time goes by so fast," Knieling said. "Gosh, I can't believe it."
Knieling said she first led a 4-H club when she lived in east Salem. She had joined an OSU Extension homemakers club and was asked to lead a group of girls who wanted to learn how to sew.
Soon, the Knieling family moved to West Salem. At about the same time, her children were old enough to join 4-H. Knieling tackled whichever interest they had -- a tall order between her four children.
Lyny Pheyffer was recently recognized by Polk County Extension for 50 years of service to 4-H as a club leader and volunteer.
"Each one of my kids had a different interest," Knieling said.
There was archery, entomology, rabbits, food and nutrition, sewing, horses, horticulture and cattle, to name a few. Her children were joined by friends and neighbors, and year after year Knieling continued to help where she was needed.
There were times when that was more difficult than others -- especially when the clubs involved lizards or other creepy, crawly creatures.
"I had a garage full of salamanders at one time," she said with apparent distaste. "I just had to put up with it."
Despite the occasional "ick factor," Knieling said she's been happy to help youngsters in 4-H.
"I think it's needed," she said. "I love working with kids. I know how important it is to keep kids busy."
When asked how it was that she continued for 50 years, Knieling said: "Where do you stop?"
Pheyffer, an Independence resident, likely has asked herself the same question.
She, too, has been leading 4-H clubs for 50 years, including activities such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, cooking, gardening, and raising chickens and rabbits.
"These are life skills they learn in 4-H," she said.
Pheyffer and her husband, Bert, emigrated from the Netherlands in 1960. They settled near friends in Polk County and have been here since. Soon after moving to Independence, Pheyffer got involved in 4-H with her children.
Pheyffer said many of the skills she has taught 4-Hers over the years she learned in school. She believes basic sewing and cooking skills will become increasingly necessary as the cost of living rises.
"Things are getting more expensive, so you need to be more efficient with cooking," she said.
She added people can easily learn to make the same food available in packaged form in the grocery store for a fraction of the cost with a few basic ingredients. In her 4-H clubs, she has passed on that knowledge to countless youngsters.
Pheyffer said there is one more life lesson taught in 4-H, no matter what club a child belongs to: working hard and trying your best.
"You don't always get ribbons -- you don't always get compliments," Pheyffer said.
But what you will get is instruction and advice -- something that can be put to good use with the next project.
"We need to do the best we can to reach our goal," Pheyffer said.
The pair said a lot has changed since they began volunteering -- the biggest being more competition for children's time and attention.
Knieling said she's noticed more children getting involved in athletics rather than 4-H activities, but she's confident 4-H still has a role -- and an important one.
"Not everybody is involved in sports," Knieling said. "Look at the new subdivisions. They don't have backyards. They need things to do. I think 4-H is going to be here for a while."
So are Knieling and Pheyffer, no doubt. Now they both are resource leaders providing assistance to other club leaders, but they would be willing to lead clubs if needed.
"It's always been a lot of fun working with the kids," Pheyffer said. "They take what they learn here and can use it later in life."