Donald Lander began his career with 4-H in June of 1950 as an assistant camp director at 4-H Camp McQuarrie in Marion County, Florida. The next month Lander moved to Lake Placid as director of the then very-primitive Camp Cloverleaf.
“Camp Cloverleaf was a new camp. So for lack of a kitchen or dining hall, we cooked in a tent and ate in the workshop which had no roof,” said Lander. “We just prayed it didn’t rain, but we had a great time.”
By the fall of that same year, Lander moved to Sarasota County where he began working as an assistant county agent. He undertook the task of developing 4-H programs throughout the county, where only one small 4-H club existed at that time.
“It was a lot of work,” said Lander. “But over the next eighteen months I organized seven more clubs and we really grew.”
His work with Sarasota County was so successful, that Lander was then transferred to Collier County where he was tasked with building 4-H in a community where no clubs existed.
“That was daunting, but before camp began that year, I was able to gather three boys from Naples, five boys from Everglades and six boys from Immokalee,” said Lander. “That was the first 4-H Camp trip from Collier County. We went back to Camp Cloverleaf.”
Through his networking, Lander was able to get three members from the County Commission, who were also farmers, to finance a cabin at the new camp. A large lumber Company, C.J. Jones Lumber Company, agreed to furnish the lumber for the rest of the buildings at no cost to 4-H, and the Collier County Cattlemen’s Association made a large contribution to the construction of what would become known as “Cattlemen’s Hall.” The days of cooking in a tent at 4-H Camp Cloverleaf had come to an end.
“Don Lander’s dedication to the 4-H program made a huge impact in each of the counties he worked in,” said Linda Denning, retired Collier County 4-H agent. “He worked hard to build the 4-H program into what it is today.” Even after he was promoted to County Extension Director, Lander continued to attend 4-H camp each summer, returning to 4-H Camp Cloverleaf with dozens of 4-H members for a week of learning and fun. Upon his retirement, the 4-H members gave him a lifetime pass for camp, a gift he truly treasures.
“I’ve so appreciated my involvement with 4-H,” said Lander. “I always felt a great sense of accomplishment when we built Camp Cloverleaf and I could see the boys and girls benefiting from it over the years. 4-H gave me the opportunity to make a lasting impact.”