Known as “The 4-H Lady” in Palm Beach County, Helen Adler has been active in 4-H for 58 years. Adler’s 4-H career began in Rockland County, New York where she was a 4-H club member for 10 years. As a member she participated in many projects including clothing, crafts, food and nutrition, bicycling, canning, breads and photography. Once she had graduated, Adler decided to become a club leader.
“4-H is my way of life,” said Adler. “I became involved right after school and it’s just how I’ve lived. 4-H has been good to me.” Through various moves, marrying, and having a family, Adler has always remained active in 4-H. She has been a leader in Palm Beach County for 48 years, where she serves on the advisory committee, and is a role model for many 4-H leaders.
“Through the years, I have learned to understand our youth by listening and working with them,” Adler said. Many 4-H members know they have a friend in Adler and look to her for advice and confide in her about their personal situations.
“Right now, a lot of my ‘kids’ are turning 50. They’ll come up to me and they say ‘you were the biggest part of my life’. Once in a while you touch a life.”
Adler shared a story of an 8-year-old boy whose mom passed away while he was in the program. She remembers watching him change over time from a sad little boy without any direction to someone with real purpose.
“In this program we are teaching life skills. Our kids get a chance to explore. They find their interests and their skills. Many of them end up going into careers from things they started while in 4-H.”
Adler says she loves the fact that 4-H is an educational program but the kids rarely realize that.
“They’re just having fun learning and doing different activities and they don’t realize they’re getting an education. It gives kids the opportunity to learn to work with other kids on projects, and to realize it’s not all about ‘me’.”
Adler also loves the unifying effect 4-H involvement has on people. “When the kids first get together they’re kind of shy, but then before too long they’re best buddies.”
And in this high-tech, fast-paced day and age, Adler really appreciates the impact 4-H has on the family.
“4-H not only brings kids together but it brings families together,” said Adler. “In order to do projects the families have to be involved. If the kids are cooking at home someone has to be there with them. Families are helping with different projects and activities throughout the year, as well as getting kids to the meetings.”
Through the years Adler has managed many clubs, at one point even leading three clubs at once. She has chaperoned 4-H Congress and Legislature, and represented 4-H at several national meetings. She has received many awards, including the Palm Beach County Commissioners’ Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services. Adler is still an active leader with her Helpful Hearts 4-H Club.
“4-H service has provided me with great personal growth, and given me a feeling of being loved and needed,” said Adler. “Working with young people keeps me young and part of this generation.”