In 1974 Betty Lou Glassburn needed something for her three young children to do. “I wanted my kids to belong to something,” said Glassburn. “I wanted them to have a place to go – a sense of belonging.” Thus began Glassburn’s 4-H career. She founded “The Mighty 4-Hers of Duette” at Duette Elementary School in Manatee County and remains a 4-H leader today.
”Ms. Betty” is known throughout Florida as a strong promoter of the 4-H program as well as the County Extension Service Program. Her reputation as an enthusiastic participant in every aspect of 4-H has earned her the respect of youth and adults.
She sponsored a local bicycle safety rodeo, coordinated the printing of the 4-H Duette Cookbook, and worked as a 4-H Camp Program Director.
Helping young people organize projects that give back to the community is a special passion for Glassburn. “I have always tried to teach all children the importance of citizenship and community service. To do something for someone without asking for anything back,” said Glassburn.
To help others organize volunteer projects, Glassburn presented Community Pride programs at State Leader Forums, Southern Regional Leaders Forums, and at the National 4-H Conference.
She has been a member of the Manatee County 4-H Foundation since 1978. She has received several 4-H awards, including Leader of the Year, as well as Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. In 2007 she was named Manatee County Agriculturist of the Year, predominantly because of 4-H experience.
“4-H has been a way of life for me,” said Glassburn, who found that 4-H helped her as a parent seeking to model positive behavior for her children. “While raising three children as a single mom, 4-H was the one positive and constant I could count on.”
Without expecting it, Glassburn has received back from 4-H too.
“I feel I have personally received tenfold back what I have given to the program. 4-H has given me self-confidence, the ability to lead and to communicate,” she said.
Some of this confidence and leadership came to Glassburn following her first “tour of duty” as a 4-H Camp staff member. In a letter to 4-H staff member BJ Allen, Glassburn wrote:
“At the time I took this job I had very little confidence in myself or my abilities. I was unable to stand up before more than two people to talk. By the end of the summer I had more confidence in myself and did not mind so terribly getting up in front of people or talking to strangers…you could never know how much your support means to me. Thank you a hundred times over.”
Glassburn knows that 4-H can offer to young people what it has given to her as a leader.
“Kids need this today more than ever. They need a positive influence in their lives and not all children have this,” said Glassburn. “Children are being raised more and more by a single parent or by grandparents and 4-H gives them a sense of belonging. It gives them interaction with positive people their own age. Someone to hang out with.”
In 1983, Glassburn was named Florida's Outstanding 4-H volunteer.
For her role in shaping future generations of farmers in Manatee County through her 4-H activities, and for helping educate the public on the importance of agriculture, Betty Glassburn was named the 2007 Manatee County Agriculturalist of the Year.
"Miss Betty has touched the lives of thousands of youth in a positive and effective manner," said Will Waters, professor emeritus at the University of Florida, in an interview with the Bradenton Herald.
In addition to her work with 4-H, Glassburn serves actively in her community. She helped established the first fire department in Duette, as well as the procurement of its first fire truck.
She organized first aid and CPR classes for the community and coordinated the opening of the community’s library. She has also served on the Manatee County Agriculture Museum Board of Directors and worked as a supervisor for the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District.
Glassburn, who comes from a long line of agriculturalists, still lives on 20 acres of the original 80 acres purchased by her family in 1882, known as Keentown. The state of Florida recently recognized the Keens as a pioneer farm family.
Glassburn is an active member of the Dry Prairie Baptist Church where she is a choir member and Sunday School teacher.