Think all young people are Going to Hell in a Handbag? That is Positively NOT the Case With Newburg 4-H Members
Amy Mitchell Moerman may just be the hardest working volunteer that I have ever known. In fact, I’m afraid I abuse both Amy and the Newburg 4-H Club because I ask for their help way too often. Why? Because I know that here is a group of young people who will do exactly what they say they will do, and they will do it right!
I’ve had it in the back of my mind for a long while that I needed to sit down with Amy and ask her what it is that has made her so involved in teaching these kiddos about volunteer work as well as why “her” kids do things so well. Of course, it took me a long time to get her to agree; however, I did get Amy cornered recently, and she did tell me her story!
Amy Mitchell is from Midlothian, Texas, her parents natives of Grand Prairie from back when it was farmland, Amy is quick to point out.
“I grew up in the Grand Prairie Saddle Club, which was a club where a bunch of people got together for play days. Barrels, wagon races….when you could pull a red flyer behind a horse going as fast as possible behind it…and long trail rides were a huge part of my life.”
One of those trail rides would end up at what we all used to call the Fat Stock Show, remember? It’s not really a picture of what we think of today when we visit Grand Prairie, is it? It is, however, the Grand Prairie of Amy’s very young days.
The family moved to Midlothian when Amy was 3 years old. She and her sister inherited their parents love of horses. Her sister was 11, and Amy was 8 when they joined a 4-H club.
“It was called the Ellis County 4-H Horse Club. My background is horses. In fact, just a couple of weeks before I was born, my parents were off on a long trail ride. I was literally raised on the back of a horse.”
Then, Amy grew up. Her sister was attending Tarleton State University by that time, and she was dating a Dutchman. Amy and her sister went to a party one night, and there was Wayne Moerman. It was three years before he got around to asking Amy to go out with him; however, that first date must have been the bomb because the couple was married within six months!
Six children later, Amy and Wayne live in Comanche, Texas today, and Amy spends most of her time chasing those children and working with her 4-H group and the family horses.
But WHY, is what I wanted to know. She is the most active civic worker that I know, and she has her 4-H kids involved in everything. Why?
“When I first moved here, I didn’t know a soul, but Wayne introduced me to Bob Whitney, county extension agent, who told me that there was a horse group in town. We had no children, and I was looking for a way to be involved. I had shown horses, given riding lessons, and I had some expertise and background in horses.”
And then I heard what I knew I was going to hear, what I have heard from so many others, and what I absolutely hate to hear.
“You know how hard it is to break into a small town as a newcomer. It just didn’t work. Then, the kids came along, and we began showing horses all over the U.S. just as individuals.”
Ultimately, Wayne and Amy’s daughter, Maggie, decided that she wanted to be in 4-H.
By that time, Amy Moerman was the National Youth Chair of the American Miniature Horse Registry and the American Shelton Pony Club, the oldest pony registry in the U.S. Of course, one of the benefits of those positions is the fact that she met the corporate people of the “horsey world.”
She once again offered to help and was turned down. A few years later, there were new Extension Agents and Amy was told that the Newburg 4-H Club needed a leader. She visited with Shelby Mast, the leader of the club at the time. Shelby’s daughter had just graduated, and Shelby was looking for someone to take over the club.
The Newburg club was down to about five members and as it turned out, it was the 55th anniversary of the Newburg charter, and Amy did not want the charter to die. She had seen the decline in 4-H involvement and was determined to help bring it back to Comanche.
“My daughter Maggie really pushed me, and I told my own kids that if I was going to do this, they would have to help us gain members because it wouldn’t work any other way. That first year we grew to 30 members.
“Tonya Ross was the vice-manager of the club last year, and she is the one who began the archery in our club. She also coached a food challenge team as well.”
Tonya is the archery coach of what Newburg calls their sister club, the On Target 4-H Shooting Sports. This club was formed with a few Newburg members and leaders that are passionate about Shooting Sports. There were enough Newburg members and others outside 4-H interested that is was decided the need for the new club was warranted.
“Our Newburg club works with De Leon a lot as well. My thought is that all of the clubs in Comanche County should work together. We have also invited the 4-H Rodeo Club to join some of our other projects/activities.”
For two years in a row, Newburg has had kids compete in the State 4-H Round UP–Horse Quiz Bowl, and they placed in the top 10 both times. Newburg (combined with some De Leon kids) has also competed in the state Nutrition Quiz Bowl for two years, placing in the top 15 the first year and in the top ten last year.
“Our Entomology team (combined with De Leon kiddos) has also competed at the state level for the past two years. They have placed in the top ten both years.”
And on top of all of that, the Newburg 4-H Club has had teams enter the Share the Fun contest for the past two years, and both teams scored in the top 10 each year!
“Last year we did thirteen projects with the entire club,” Moerman shared with me.
But we still had not answered my original question. Why does Amy push community service so much when it often seems that no one else does? Why is this so important to the woman who is certainly busy enough with projects that do not involve the community?
Of course, the answer I received is exactly what I thought I would receive. Children are TRAINED to become involved and interested in their communities. They are TRAINED by the adults in their lives, and it is the adults who have let their children down.
“My belief in community service goes back to when I was in 4-H. We always did things within our community. We would see something dirty or broken, and we would ask if we could fix it, or clean it, or whatever it needed. We had an annual trail ride-a-thon that we split the proceeds with United Way.
“When I moved here, Comanche was the same size as Midlothian, where I grew up after we moved from Grand Prairie. It’s not small any more, but it was back then. Growing up there, we tried to keep the downtown clean, and we did the same with our small park. We always wanted it looking nice. Like Comanche, Midlothian has lots of traffic coming right through it, and we wanted to make a good impression.”
“But, why does your group have such good workers? And I know first hand how good they are because they have helped me more than once at the museum. They are absolutely the best student workers I have ever had!” I told her for probably the 100th time.
“At an early age our own kids had to learn to work and be responsible. We had chore boards at our house, and I try to give every 4-H kid a responsibility just like I did my own. I have a great group of kids, and they see the good we are doing.”
For one thing, this group cleans the football stadium every Saturday morning after home games, and I would hope knowing that someone has to clean up after them will make Comanche fans more aware of the mess they leave behind.
The club also adopts a family each Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“And our kids see that there are people in need right here in Comanche. I have kids do the grocery list from meals that they plan for the families. They also consider how many days they will be out of school and figure up what snacks and meals the kids might need since they won’t be in school. Then, they plan the meals according to how long the children will be out of school. Of course, they also plan the Thanksgiving meal too.
“Then, we discuss how fortunate we all are. One year the kids were so touched by the family (who only had a table in the bare room) that we provided for the same family for Christmas as well.
“The house was literally empty so at Christmas, we made a list, and some families donated. Our fashion kids created a list of clothing that we probably needed for the children. What was not donated, we took kids shopping for. Plus kids bought things for the house. They figured it all out, not me. They learned so much from this project.
“By the time we got back in the van from delivering our Christmas, I didn’t have a kid who wasn’t crying after seeing the tears of the kids who received the toys. These projects have really moved quite a few of the kids in our club.”
“Where do you go from here?” I asked.
“I envision the club growing, but this won’t happen unless I can get more parents involved as project leaders. I need their time and their expertise because there are projects possible that I do not have the skills to lead.”
And, of course she doesn’t have the time, no one can be all things to all people, but I do understand her passion, a passion to help young people become the best possible adults that they can be, adults who understand the hard work and team effort that it takes for any community to be successful, and we applaud Amy Moerman for doing what very, very few are willing to do and for making a difference in the lives of the young people around her.
I also challenge the rest of you. Great children who turn into great adults don’t just happen. They are trained, exactly as Amy points out, and if they are not trained…well, whose fault is that anyway?
It’s something to think about, isn’t it?