Jackson County 4-H club earns state award

JACKSON -- Members of the LaCrosse Loyal Workers 4-H Club appeared before Jackson County Commissioners Tuesday morning with a brief presentation about their "Safety ABC: Always Be Careful" project, which was recognized last week with an Associati...

SUBMITTED PHOTO Gathering for a photo at the Association of Minnesota Counties awards presentation March 21 were Jackson County Commissioner Kim Hummel (from left), Commissioner Rosemary Schultz, Coordinator Janice Fransen, 4-H'er Kristin Liepold, Commissioner David Henkels, 4-H'er Autumn Hinkeldey, Commissioner Bill Tusa, 4-H'er Aaron Fest and Commissioner Roger Ringkob.

JACKSON -- Members of the LaCrosse Loyal Workers 4-H Club appeared before Jackson County Commissioners Tuesday morning with a brief presentation about their "Safety ABC: Always Be Careful" project, which was recognized last week with an Association of Minnesota Counties Leadership Award.

During an AMC meeting March 21 in St. Paul, representatives of the club accepted a plaque and $250 for the Jackson County 4-H program.

They were one of two 4-H clubs selected from 10 applicants for the honor. Also recognized was the "4-H Youth Teaching Youth: Alcohol and Tobacco Decisions" project conducted by Anoka, Dakota, Scott and Washington counties.

The LaCrosse Loyal Workers 4-H Club includes 27 members, more than half of which are youth leaders in sixth grade or older.

Their idea for a Safety Day Camp grew out of a 4-H youth leader training meeting in the fall of 2010, according to Austin Liepold, current club president. For the 2010-2011 4-H year, LaCrosse members chose safety as their club project and paired what they learned in the project area with an idea for a community pride activity.


The Safety Day Camp was conducted on April 29, 2011, for approximately 150 kindergarten through sixth grade students at Southwest Star Concept Elementary School. Each junior leader in the 4-H club was responsible for leading a safety session, with topics ranging from safety around lawnmowers, chemicals, electricity, grain bins, bicycles and ATVs to proper handwashing techniques, fingerprinting and stranger danger. A 911 simulator was also demonstrated.

"Everyone really had a part in this planning," Austin said.

"That got us the award --the fact that the youth did it," Kristin Liepold added.

Combined, club members spent about 100 to 150 hours planning and presenting the safety day camp, but they also had quite a bit of help from parents and others in their communities. Safety packets and informational tools were provided by both the University of Minnesota Extension Service and Farm Bureau, and professionals such as Dave Berlin from Federated Rural Electric and Mike Gruekle, Department of Natural Resources conservation officer were also called upon to help. Others included representatives of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the Heron Lake Ambulance and the Heron Lake Police Department.

Guest speaker for the event was Collette Diemer of Heron Lake, who told students about her husband's encounter with a power take-off (PTO) shaft. She brought with her the clothes he was wearing when they became entangled in the high-powered shaft.

Following Diemer's talk, students watched a mock PTO accident.

"We actually had the police department roll up, the Jackson County Sheriff's rolled up and the ambulance came," Austin said. They then listened as the agencies communicated over law enforcement radios.

LaCrosse club treasurer Aaron Fest said his hope is that students left the day camp knowing more about safety.


"Some of the kids either didn't know any of the stuff or it was just a reminder," Kristin added.

It was also a good experience for club members, said Fest, adding they had to do research, practice organization, teach lessons and write thank-you notes.

Club officers give Lisa Fest a lot of credit for making the safety day camp a reality. She was the club leader at the time the camp was planned, and helped find grants for the event. She also led the effort to apply for the AMC award.

Grants from the Heron Lake-Okabena Community Foundation and Federated Rural Electric helped make the safety day camp possible.

While it is possible the 4-H club may plan another safety day camp in the future, Austin Liepold said they are already in the midst of this year's Community Pride project -- a service learning project that has all of the LaCrosse Loyal Workers 4-H members volunteering their time through the Heron Lake-Okabena Community Foundation's silent auction. Members volunteered to do everything from babysitting to lawnmowing, baking and helping the elderly with projects. Money raised from the auction will go to the foundation.

"Then we could request that money out of there and put it toward another worthy cause," Austin said.

The LaCrosse Loyal Workers 4-H Club is one of several in Jackson County. The 4-H program there boasts 330 members from 170 families.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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