This holiday season, U.S. soldiers around the world will receive packages of gifts from residents of Northwest Iowa courtesy of a Clay County 4-H club.
Operation Enduring Peace, which ran only a few weeks in November, collected hundreds of food items, books and games, as well as about $400 to purchase additional items.
Cindy Jones, a junior at Spencer High School, is the driving force behind the effort. Four years ago her Meadow Busy Bees 4-H club held a similar drive. This year she's the only remaining club member who was a part of that collection. A hard-working 17-year-old, Jones has left her mark on Operation Enduring Peace.
"First we decided to take the drive county-wide," she said. "But I'm also on the Northwest Iowa area 4-H Council, so we opened this up to the area."
Working with the Red Cross, Jones and company publicized the drive and worked out shipping arrangements. They've made the rounds of the participating Iowa State University (ISU) Extension offices, which served as drop-off sites, and collected and packed up the accumulated donations of games, non-perishables, cards, and personal hygiene products, which will make their way overseas sometime in December.
"Our club is big on citizenship," Jones said. "We have a goal of doing something like this every single year."
They're not alone. "Citizenship is an integral part of 4-H," Brenda Allen, ISU extension 4-H youth specialist, noted. "One of the four Hs in our name stands for hands, which our members pledge to larger service."
This year 4-H initiated an even greater emphasis on service in honor of its centennial celebration. Nationwide, more than 200,000 4-H members and adult volunteers have pledged to do community service projects. More than 75,000 pledges were submitted by Iowans. Participants have promised to help out in a variety of ways, from assisting individuals to building respect and tolerance for others.
Back on the local level, 4-H'ers of all ages are continuing their helpful ways. This Halloween about a dozen members of ISU's Collegiate 4-H Club went door to door, trick-or-treating for canned goods for the Fishes and Loaves food pantry in Story City.