4-H Community Service Focus Begins at an Early Age

By Mary Stewart, Extension Communications & Marketing Coordinator, West Central Region.

Silverton, Ore.—Ashlynn Gubbels stands on her tiptoes to fill the salt and pepper shakers at the weekly Silverton Community Dinner. At four years old, Ashlynn is already getting a taste of the good feeling that comes from volunteering to help others.  As a “member-in-training” to the Silver Adventures and Livestock 4-H Club in Silverton, she is joining 20 other 4-H members as they complete the club’s community service project. “Ashlynn loves 4-H already. She is learning to give back and how to be productive,” says Shannon Gubbels, the 4-H Club’s volunteer leader and Ashlynn’s mom.


“Service projects prepare 4-H youth to be caring members of their community,” explains Melanie Mintken, OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development faculty in Marion County. Her statement is backed up with Tufts University youth development research entitled The Positive Development of Youth. According to the study, 4-H youth who participate in community service when they are in grades 7-12 are four times more likely to make contributions to their communities as adults.

The Silver Adventures and Livestock 4-H Club serves at the community dinner a few times a year. Everyone who wants to volunteer has a job--from clearing tables to serving desserts to Ashlynn’s job filling salt and pepper shakers. The Wednesday-night dinner, a tradition in Silverton since 2008, provides a healthy meal for residents at no cost. Most 4-H Clubs in Marion County conduct one or more community service projects each year.


“This community service project work definitely fits into the five Cs of positive youth development: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character and Caring/Compassion,” says Melanie.  When youth develop the five Cs, they work towards long term outcomes.  Youth who have a 4-H experience are expected to achieve three outcomes in adulthood:

  1. Positive contribution to community
  2. Healthy family and social relationships
  3. Economic self sufficiency

“Participating in community service gives youth a leg up in reaching these three long term outcomes,” Melanie points out.


In 2013, some 341 OSU Extension 4-H volunteers reported 27,345 hours of service in Marion County.  The gross value of the time 4-H volunteers give to the residents of Marion County is more than $500,000 based on the standard dollar value of a volunteer hour.


For more information about the OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development program or any of the programs that benefit farms, food and families in Marion County, contact the Extension Office in Salem 503-588-5301, MarionCoExt@gmail.com or visit www.extension.oregonstate.edu/marion.