Children must count!” That is something 4-H Hall of Fame member Diane Anderson is adamant about. “They are our future and must be trained to be able to cope. Regardless of their strengths or limitations they need to believe in themselves and be confident.”
Anderson has felt this way for more than 30 years. You could say it’s what motivated her three decades ago as she searched for a group to involve her three daughters with.
“We were in Westerville, Ohio and I just needed something for my girls to do to keep them out of trouble,” said Anderson, now a grandmother of five. That something turned out to be 4-H, and Anderson soon became a local club leader.
“Oh, we had so much fun. We started a woodworking club and an automotive club. Before we knew it the whole neighborhood wanted to be involved. It was a lot easier that way - to keep them all involved.”
After the family moved to Florida, Anderson continued to volunteer with 4-H. Her family’s commitment to the organization has never wavered.
She has served as a volunteer trainer, chaperone, group leader, mentor and advisor to program administrator, volunteers, and countless youth. She also worked as a volunteer recruiter in at the county 4-H office for two years.
“Diane is like the energizer bunny,” said Lucille Barfield, former 4-H program assistant. “She is constantly promoting 4-H opportunities to anyone who will listen. She always has a kind word to share with a volunteer or 4-Her who might be feeling overwhelmed. One of Anderson’s greatest strengths is bringing out the best in others.”
Over the years Anderson has recruited many of her friends and family and involved them with the 4-H program. Anderson was selected as 4-H Volunteer of the Year! And so were her daughter and late husband in recognition of their years of service to the youth development organization. It is this ability to recruit help that has helped Anderson realize much success in her 4-H service.
“I have always depended on and appreciated the help of others,” said Anderson.
“I remember one time when we were getting ready for a quarter horse show. It was a giant money-maker for our county 4-H office. The extension agent had rented portable stalls to put the horses in during show. County prisoners were supposed to install them but it started to rain buckets and the prisoners weren’t allowed to work in the rain. We started calling for help wherever we could find it. I remember looking around at all those parents, leaders and friends who were out in that rain and mud—many still in high heels and their work clothes--raising those stalls. I was so grateful to them.”
Anderson has volunteered more than 15,000 hours for the 4-H program. Her programs have reached thousands of children. She has helped trained more than 300 adults in Orange County and more than 250 additional people throughout the state of Florida.
She also served as coordinator for the Florida Hospitality House during the Southern Region Leaders forum in Georgia, during an important training conference for 4-H volunteers. She has also served as the primary Central Florida Fair Set-Up and Tear-Down Coordinator and Community Information Liaison and alumni recruiter for the past 20 years.
So what does Anderson feel she gained from all her years of service? “I wouldn’t trade my years in 4-H for anything,” said Anderson.“One of the best things from my 4-H experience was gaining the trust of the parents and their kids. It seems like I always got the rotten little students - the trouble makers. But I loved earning their trust and seeing their lives turn around. Many of them came back to me with their children. When the good Lord gives you a chance to do something good for somebody, I just feel like you should get in there and do it!”