child trying on fireman's gear

Accidents can happen in a split second. It is never too young to start learning how to be situationally aware and safer. For the past 30 years, University of Illinois Extension and Illinois Farm Bureau have made it a priority to teach area youth how to be safe around the farm and beyond.

wall of engraved bricks

The opportunities are vast when it comes to inspiring others to enjoy nature. University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist (EMN) Pam Tomka uses her grant writing skills to help Wildlife Prairie Park make facility improvements, which in turn will draw more people out into nature.

girl holding ribbon wreath

Hands-on, experiential learning is at the core of the 4-H program. When programs were transitioned to virtual, local 4-H staff developed an innovative program called 4-H Spark Camp that upheld the 4-H learning style that youth and their families could do together at home.

Picture of a landscape with a lone tree and the title, Joy Project

After months of being sheltered in place in 2020, Mason 4-H Federation teens were feeling the emotional effects and decided to do something to help others who may be feeling the same. Combining their leadership and program planning skills with their creative skills and empathy, they launched The Joy Project 2021 in April.

People filling out paperwork on a desk

Rural communities throughout Illinois and across the nation struggle to maintain population, jobs, and schools. The COVID-19 pandemic created even more challenges; however, a collaborative group of community leaders in Fulton County was already at work addressing the challenges, positioning their communities for growth through the challenges. That advance work helped obtain state and federal funding support, that yielded four grants worth more than $8 million.

Extension Master Gardener working in a community garden

What one eat plays a critical role in a person’s health. Unfortunately, not everyone can easily afford healthy, fresh produce. University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners provide many people with free produce through several “giving gardens.” Thanks to a partnership with Tazewell County Health Department, one of these giving gardens has expanded its offerings and is gearing up to add gardening and cooking lessons.

4-H youth holding a Guinea Pig

Pets bring a lot of joy to the homes where they live. When young family members help take care of pets, they learn valuable responsibility skills. 4-H provides tools and learning opportunities for youth to develop those skills.

Picture of native plant Black-eyed Susan with butterfly

Each year in the United States, over one million acres of native habitat are transformed into urban and suburban lawns. The loss of these native plant resources is directly related to the decline of the native bird population by 3 billion birds. As news of species decline becomes more common, University of Illinois Extension has significantly increased the native plant educational programs to address this concern.

4-H teens pose for a group shot

Once a 4-Her, always a 4-Her. According to the Illinois 4-H Alumni Association, 25 million Americans share the unique bond of being a 4-H alum, each with a unique story. Whether it's spending time at 4-H camp, conquering public speaking fears, leading as a club officer, traveling the world as an exchange member, competing at the county fair, or working with 4-H club leaders; 4-H experiences played a part in personal development.

Profile picture of Tara Heath

Horticulture has been a part of Tara Heath’s life since she was a little girl. After a 20 year career focused on landscape management, Tara has joined the University of Illinois Extension team as the horticulture program coordinator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties.

4-H youth and adult with boxes of socks

The best leaders are those who also serve others. 4-H offers a wide variety of opportunities for youth to develop those servant leadership skills. The four 4-H Federation groups in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties have worked hard over the past year encouraging others through 12 various service projects and special events, which also provided an avenue for the teens to build their leadership skills.

Extension Master Gardeners standing by flower bed

Education and beauty go hand-in-hand with the new native plant landscape project at Morton Public LibraryUniversity of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit worked to beautify the landscaping at the library while educating the patrons about the benefits of native plants.

Upset child being soothed by adult

Youth and families are currently impacted by a variety of stressful events outside of their control. Changes in normal routines, limited social interaction with friends and families, and missed significant life events can all increase the stress and anxiety children and families are feeling. University of Illinois Extension Youth Educators Judy Schmidt and Emily Schoenfelder have started a new blog dedicated to helping families cope with stress and anxiety.

Master Naturalist volunteer holding a bag of cleaned seeds for Project Wingspan

The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists of Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties were honored in January 2021 by Pollinator Partnership for Project Wingspan as the Most Engaged Volunteers in 2020.

Picture of SNAP-Ed community worker preparing a recipe for online education

While it is important to educate people about nutritious eating, it is equally important to teach them how they can afford nutritious foods on a budget. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed) staff at University of Illinois Extension staff offer Healthy Cents 12-part series to adults in an online format.

Screen shot of on-line training menu

The number of people going through online training to become a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener increased in 2020.  Since the summer of 2020, twelve people have enrolled in online training program from Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties. This is an increase from 2019 when two people enrolled in the online training.

Picture of a coal plant

In the fall of 2019, the communities of Canton and Havana were hit with the shocking news that Vistra Corp. planned closing the local coal-fired power plants within three months. Community leaders were left to navigate the detrimental impacts to their tax base and workforce and they turned to each other to share ideas and resources.

Teens at 4-H Show

The skill mastery exhibited during the 2020 Virtual 4-H Shows seemed extra special this year and deserved an extra special recognition. A drive-thru awards ceremony was held honoring the Tazewell County 4-H Virtual Show exhibitors.