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by Missy Klatt
GLENWOOD CITY — At this year’s St. Croix County Fair Debbie and Gary Stevens were awarded the 4-H Living Memorial Award on Sunday of the fair. The award is given out by the St. Croix County 4-H Leaders Council yearly to those that have made an impact on the 4-H program in St. Croix County. The award was first given out in the mid 1960’s.
Debbie commented that they were “totally surprised” to receive this honor. The honorees are nominated anonymously but the Stevens did find out that it was Mari Omman who nominated them.
Debbie has been a 4-H leader for 25 years, most of those as the leader of the Sunnyside Shamrocks 4-H club. Although Gary has not been an official leader for the same length of time, he has been helping out for just as long. At the moment Gary is a leader and is very involved with the 4-H food stand at the fair. Debbie says “that’s his baby, he loves to do that stuff” as Gary just smiles.
Besides being the leader of the Sunnyside Shamrocks, Debbie has also been a member of the leader’s council at various times over the years. The council is involved with programming at the county level. Besides just being a part of a local club, 4-H members have different projects or activities that they can get involved with at the county level.
While Gary was at the food stand working on Sunday, it was daughter Heather who made sure Debbie made it to the fair on Sunday saying that she needed help with her almost two year old. It was Mari who got them under the big tent on the pretense of a “meeting” so Debbie and Gary would be ready to accept their award.
Debbie goes on to say that they sat right in the middle of the tent and she’s thinking that this is kind of strange spot for a meeting. Gary chimes in ”I thought it was a stupid place for a meeting”. Debbie said no one except her, Gary and Mari were paying attention at the “meeting”. Then Debbie noticed more and more of her 4-H kids and their families nearby. As the award was starting to be announced Debbie thought there was something fishy going on with all of their 4-Hers there. Then the announcer started talking about the work in the food stand and she realized what was going on.
“It was a pretty big honor, pretty cool” Debbie states.
While Debbie was a 4-Her growing up, this was all new for Gary as he was a boy scout in his youth. Debbie was a member of the Bellringers 4-H club as a child and said it was hard to switch to Sunnyside but it was just too far to drive all the way up to Emerald for meetings when her kids were young. Their children, Heather, Holly and Heidi were all members of the Sunnyside Shamrocks under their mother’s leadership and now the next generation, Heather’s kids Michael and Gracie are 4-H members and a part of the Sunnyside Shamrocks even though they live in Deer Park.
As a matter of fact Debbie’s club is so well known and respected that they have members from several surrounding communities, not just Glenwood City.
When asked why she stays on as leader, Debbie remarked “it’s a good program for the kids. I believe in the 4-H program.” Her enthusiasm and dedication of the 4-H program certainly shines through as she talks about their many years of involvement.
Over the years the club has had as few as 10-12 members and as many as 45. Currently the club has about 30 members from 13 families which Debbie says is a nice number. She goes on to say all my families are great. She told them that she would continue to be the general leader if they keep helping. She states that it has been working pretty good.
One of challenges in their club is losing kids to sports when they get older, especially in high school. However Debbie explains that it depends on the kid and their priorities. Some kids just make it all work.
Between their three daughters the Stevens have been involved with numerous projects. One year they had sixty-seven different animals at the fair spilt amongst the three kids. However one of Debbie’s biggest passions is the sewing project. She enjoys being able to share her sewing skills with members of her club and now her grandchildren.
Over the years Debbie and Gary have seen many changes in 4-H. Gary mentions that the horse and goat programs in the county have really expanded. Debbie notes that photography is huge right now at the fair. Another change that they noticed is that the kids don’t have as much time to put into 4-H as they used to.
Gary states “It’s a family thing, if the parents are involved, the kids are involved” when it comes to the different activities and projects. Debbie goes on to say that “the cool thing about 4-H is, it is a family thing, Mom and Dad and all the kids can come and be a part of it.” Even the ones that aren’t members or are too young to be a member yet.
Another aspect of the 4-H program that Debbie really likes is that it teaches kids to be good people, to take care of themselves, to take care of critters, to be a good sport and to help others by doing community service.
Gary comments, “One thing that is great is when all the kids have gone on and are adults now and they come back and say Hi” as Debbie continues they say things like “this is what I’m doing now or these are my kids etc.
Obvisously Debbie and Gary have made an impact on many kids throughout the years and the award is very well deserved. Congrats Debbie and Gary!