Bette Jones considered herself the best “paid” 4-H volunteer in the world. “When a 4-H'er plugged in his lamp and it worked, that smile was pay,” said Jones.
“When I watched Central Florida Fair visitors playing 500 4-H game boards, a project I initiated, that was pay,” said Jones. “When Love a Horse, a project book for 4-H’ers without a horse, was published by the state 4-H department, that was pay.”
“When I gave the keynote address to a Campbell’s Soup Volunteer Leader Forum at the National 4-H Center in Washington, D.C. and was asked back four times, that was pay,” said Jones. “When a volunteer stepped up in 4-H because, ‘Bette told me I could do it,’ or ‘Bette showed me how,’ that was pay. When my three grandchildren sew a project, sing a 4-H campfire song, or grow a garden the memories flood back and I know I am the best paid volunteer in the world!”
4-H was a part of her life for a long time. As a young girl she joined the program in Miami-Dade County in 1947, where she was active for the next 7 years of her youth until 1954.She served as the County 4-H Council president and the Florida 4-H Council treasurer. She was also the Florida Home Improvement Record Book winner.
"Participation in 4-H provided opportunities for me to grow from an awkward and unsure child into a person that could share interests and talents with others," said Jones. “4-H provided a ladder of skills that showed me how to climb to the top and provided a method of measuring success, one dress sewn or one flower grown at a time.”
These lessons served Jones well as she went on to become a registered pharmacist and worked in that industry for twenty-one years. She became a 4-H volunteer in 1969, and never stopped volunteering. She led two writing workshops for 4-H youth, in addition to several sewing workshops. She presented workshops in Orange, Indian River, Marion, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties.
Upon her retirement from pharmacy in 1982, Jones became employed as a Brevard County 4-H Agent for three years. During this time, she increased the program’s membership from 600 to more than 1,200 4-H club members.
She participated in the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, the Brevard 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, the Brevard Extension Advisory Committee, the Brevard 4-H Advisory Committee and the Brevard County 4-H Foundation. She received an “Ask Me, I’ll Help” award from the Brevard County Commissioners because of her proactive approach to life. She was also presented with a Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents award for program materials she developed.
During her time with 4-H, Jones wrote the booklet Getting Your Hands On Health, which was published by the National 4-H Council. She also co-wrote a grant on behalf of Brevard County 4-H to receive $12,000 in funds from the Federal Inland Navigation District to buy ten canoes and equipment for environmental education projects.
She was named the Florida 4-H Alumni of the Year in 1999.She attended the Southern Region 4-H Leader Forum at Rock Eagle eight times, where she presented four workshops and a keynote address. She delivered the keynote address “How to be the Best Paid Volunteer” at the Campbell’s Soup Leader Forum at the National 4-H Conference Center five times. She also delivered keynote addresses at 4-H volunteer leader forums in Rochester, New York and Little Rock, Arkansas.
In addition to her family, career and work with 4-H, Jones remained very active in her community throughout her lifetime. She was an active volunteer for the Brevard County School System, and was named “Senior Volunteer of the Year” for the 2001-2002 school year. She served as a board member and grant writer for the nonprofit organization “Hidden Potential”, which works with children with autism or other learning disabilities. She was also active with the Merritt Island Women’s Club, the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Cub Scouts.
“4-H provided leadership training and encouraged me to take risks and to reach out. Throughout my 4-H experience I was taught that when you learn something you should turn around and teach it to someone else. And so, I have,” said Jones. Her legacy lives on in the hundreds of 4-H members and club leaders she touched.
She passed away in her hometown of Merritt Island, Florida.