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4H group plans Valentine’s surprise

West-Del 4-Hers from left NoGreenfeld Nancy Haire Ely Greenfeld Jolene King Abbey Goscinski Emily Studt Leslie Santoyo ElainStudt
Faith King front

West-Del 4-Hers from left, Noa Greenfeld, Nancy Haire, Ely Greenfeld, Jolene King, Abbey Goscinski, Emily Studt, Leslie Santoyo, Elaina Studt Faith King, front row. | Romi Herron photo

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Updated: February 12, 2013 6:10AM

Although it was an artistic activity during the holiday break, a West-Del 4-H project reminded students about those who don’t get to come home for Christmas. Creating handmade valentines for U.S. military soldiers overseas, more than a dozen students gathered late last month in Elgin.

“There are people in the world who don’t get home for Christmas,” said Nancy Haire, West-Del 4-H contact leader who hosted the activity at her rural Elgin home. “Most of the cards go overseas.”

With colored paper, markers and handwritten messages, the students were reminded by Haire not to include their last names or any detailed information about themselves.

“They can write a message, and it has to be uplifting,” Haire said, explaining the initiative falls under community service, and visual arts, for 4-H.

According to 4-H’s website, the organization is a national not-for-profit youth development initiative. It is named such for the four “H’s”: head, for managing and thinking; heart, for relating and caring; hands, for giving and working; and health, for being and living.

Countywide, the organization has been making and sending valentines to the military for about 10 years, Haire said, estimating the day’s output would likely be around 100 cards.

Among them 17 students who took part were Faith King, 10, of Elgin; siblings Ely and Noa Greenfeld, ages 10 and 11, of Elgin; and Abbey Goscinski, a Judson University student who volunteers with the 4-H students.

Last year, Goscinski invited one of her military contacts to visit with the 4H group to connect their valentine activity with an actual face.

“It brought it to life,” Goscinski said of his interaction with the group.

“(The students) got to hear that it is hard to be away from your family and even the little things make the day brighter, whether it’s a valentine from home, or a package.”

Since her friend who visited the group was in the Navy and often in hostile zones, he experienced long periods of time with no civilian contact, Goscinski said.

“When you’re out (at sea), you’re not allowed any outside contact with the outside world,” she said.

“Mail is very slow. It is easier to send an email, but sometimes their Internet is blocked.”

Noa Greenfeld said she wrote a valentine thanking the recipient for his or her service, for protecting the United States, and wishing a Merry Christmas.

Also during the valentine card activity, some of the students had an opportunity to learn more about the history of the West-Del 4H.

Haire explained the specific group started in 1950 and was named aptly to designate the location west of McLean Boulevard.

“There was a 4H club in South Elgin, and my mother didn’t want to interfere,” explained Haire, whose late mother, Claire Calhoun, founded West-Del 4H. “At the corner of Stevens and McDonald roads, there still stands a square blue building which was named DeLancy School. So we took West-Del as our name.”

More information about 4H is available at the organization’s website,

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