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University of Illinois Extension

4-H Birthday Bag Project Continues with Lasting Impact

May 13, 2013

After the overwhelming response of appreciation from local food pantries and families, 4-H members in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit again collected "birthday bags" this year as a unit-wide community service project. Additionally, other Extension volunteer groups including Home and Community Education (HCE) members and Master Gardeners were invited to participate. Together, our 4-H members and volunteers collected 300 birthday bags that were distributed to food pantries throughout the four counties.

The "birthday bags" included many supplies to help a family celebrate a child's birthday: cake mix, candles, frosting, birthday card, gift bag and small gift. Bags were sorted and labeled by 4-H Federation members to indicate if they were for a boy or girl and the approximate age.

Food pantry staff and volunteers expressed great appreciation. Many families struggle to be able to provide even a simple cake for their child's birthday and pantries don't often have cake mix and frosting available. The birthday bags are meeting a great need in the community.

"One of the best things about this project has been seeing it grow in the community beyond just our 4-H members," says Judy Schmidt, 4-H Metro Youth Development Educator. "One 4-H club leader shared about the birthday bag project at their church and now the church is doing collections as well. Additionally, several 4-H clubs have adopted a pantry and provide new bags whenever the supply gets low. That is more than we hoped for when we started this project. It has become not just a one-time event, but truly a sustained impact in the community."

Nationally, 4-H has adopted the motto, "Join the Revolution of Responsibility!" The goal is to be a positive change agent in your community by taking action to address a local issue or need. Our 4-H members and volunteers did just that!

For more information about how you could get involved in the Birthday Bag project or in the 4-H Youth Development program in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit, contact Judy Schmidt, 4-H Youth Development Educator at schmid7@illinois.edu or 309-685-3140.

Source: Judy Schmidt, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development - Metro, schmid7@illinois.edu

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