The following letter is in response a vote on August 6 by the Dewey County Commissioners to cut the county budget for Extension/4-H in the amount of $34,590 from the county budget for fiscal year 2020. The Commission will meet on September 3, at the Dewey County Courthouse in Timber Lake.
Dear Dewey County Commissioners,
Timber Lake & Area Development Board of Directors and Members respectfully request that the Dewey County Commissioners restore FY-2020 funding for the Dewey County 4-H program because 4-H is a valuable asset to all the communities in the county. 4-H builds young leaders, who understand the importance of volunteering and giving back to their community. 4-H also boosts our local economy through events and numerous volunteer hours.
The Annual Dewey County 4-H Rodeo boosts the local economy by bringing in 4-H families from across South Dakota to Dewey County. Many of these 4-H families spend money at our convenience store/gas stations, eating establishments, some rent lodging, and some shop at other businesses. Every “out of area” dollar spent in Dewey County bolsters our local businesses which in turn helps keep our communities going. This year there were 187 contestants at the Dewey County 4-H Rodeo. Conservatively figuring each contestant spent $30.00 in Dewey County (food, gate fee, and other expenses) yields $5,610 to our economy. This does not include their entry fees, gas or parents expenses which easily doubles what each rodeo contestant spends. This would be a loss to our local economy.
This program builds tomorrow’s leaders by allowing youth to organize and facilitate club meetings and events, while providing the youth a way to learn and practice parliamentary procedure. Learning these valuable skills empowers 4-H youth to lead for a lifetime. Our communities are currently reaping the rewards of past 4-H members as they provide leadership in a variety of ways. On our development board alone, over half of the directors are former 4-H members, who learned early in life the value of serving our community. Not only did they grow up participating, there is a direct correlation between what they learned and the career paths they followed. From learning about livestock, to public speaking, participating on boards, and event planning, each of us pulled from our early experience in 4-H to help us become the professionals we are today.
“Make the Best Better” is a motto the kids strive for through community service projects. Examples of community service projects 4-H youth do in Dewey County communities are: the Annual Easter Egg Hunt; community beautification with flower and tree planting; painting garbage cans and benches; trash pickup; purchasing and donating meals for those in need; preparing plates of treats and delivering them to special community members; and the Annual (county wide) Halloween Carnival. 4-H youth also step up and lend a helping hand when emergency situations happen. The Dewey County 4-H youth baked many sweet treats, made hundreds of cold meat sandwiches and sack lunches to feed linemen who were here helping to restore power to the Moreau Grand Service Area. Youth don’t have to do these things to give back to their communities, they choose to do this because they learn how important it is as 4-H members. On average, most 4-H members volunteer a minimum of 8 hours of community service each year. Using South Dakotas minimum wage of $9.10 per hour this equals a $72.80 contribution per 4-H member back to Dewey County.
While there may be a perception that 4-H involvement has dwindled, that is not the case in every area. While attending rodeos and achievement days in other places, it has been noticed that other programs are booming. There is a great amount of growth potential, our youth deserves the chance to participate in this opportunity. Additionally, the FFA program is growing in the Timber Lake and Eagle Butte schools, and 4-H provides the building blocks for kids to one day step into FFA.
If we stop investing leadership skills in our youth who choose to be in 4-H, where will our communities be in 10 or 20 years from now? Who will be our community leaders in elected and in volunteer positions that have the skills to get it done? If we expect a younger generation to take charge someday, we need to start them on the right foot today; the Dewey County 4-H program does exactly that. Thank you for your time and consideration.
The Timber Lake and Area Development Board