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Local 4-H leader looking for a break after 45 years in youth group

10/20/2012  Elgin
4-H Club volunteer Nancy Haire Elgspeaks with Joanne Herdrich (not pictured) her daughter Lindsey (right) Elgduring Seventh Annual

10/20/2012 Elgin 4-H Club volunteer Nancy Haire, of Elgin, speaks with Joanne Herdrich (not pictured) and her daughter Lindsey (right), of Elgin, during the Seventh Annual Volunteer Fair at the Gail Borden Public Library on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Haire has been with the Westdel 4-H Club for 45 years. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media

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4-H background

Started more than a century ago, 4-H began as a way to “make public school education more connected to country life,” according to its web site,

“Today, 4-H has an expansive reach, serving youth in rural, urban, and suburban communities in every state across the nation,” the site says.

“Youth currently in 4-H are tackling the nation’s top issues, from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety. 4-H out-of-school programming, in-school enrichment programs, clubs and camps also offer a wide variety of science, engineering, technology and applied math educational opportunities — from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, environmental protection and computer science — to improve the nation’s ability to compete in key scientific fields and take on the leading challenges of the 21st century.”

The name 4-H comes from four personal development areas: head, heart, hands and health.

Updated: November 23, 2012 6:08AM

ELGIN — Nancy Haire is ready for a break, but she wants to find someone to take over for her first.

For the past 45 years, Haire, now 77, has been leading the Elgin-based West-Del 4-H club. Haire’s mother started the club, and Haire herself started running it when her own children were in 4-H. The family history with 4-H goes back even further — Haire’s grandmother started a club in the 1920s.

With her youngest daughter now 49 years old, and her youngest grandchild 21, it’s time to retire, Haire said. “We are in our fifth generation of 4-Hers,” she noted.

There are currently 18 community 4-H clubs in Kane County, serving between 300 and 400 children ages 8 to 18, said Doris Braddock, Kane County’s 4-H program coordinator with the University of Illinois Extension office.

There is at least one other club, out on the west edge of the county, that needs new leaders to keep it going, Braddock said.

New leaders don’t necessarily have to come from a 4-H background, Braddock said. They do have to go through the application process and background check, she said.

“Nancy is on the search for another parent or an adult of caliber to take over,” Braddock said.

Instead of taking over the West-Del club, Haire said she would like to see the new leaders start from scratch with a new club. Her self-imposed deadline is after the 2013 Kane County Fair, which ends the year for club members. The new year starts in September.

She’d also like to see the leaders have an Elgin address.

“Elgin has but my club, and I take kids from St. Charles, South Elgin, Burlington,” Haire said.

The club’s location is wherever it meets — in her case, at her west Elgin rural home.

Haire figures she gives about 15 to 20 hours a month to lead the club, including the monthly meetings and other activities. Including Cloverbuds, which are ages 5-7, she has 21 members currently meeting at her house.

Fair season, leading up to and including the fair, is far busier, she said.

“Fair time? Whoa. My speciality is the sewing and cooking projects, and finding parents and other sources for the animals for the mechanical science, all of that,” Haire said.

Over the years, she has developed contacts to help instruct her club. A wholesale florist teaches floral design, a mother teaches how to make bread, and “a gentleman in Elgin that helps with mechanical sciences, and he helps in the fair,” Haire said.

To help with the search for a new leader, Haire worked the 4-H booth Saturday at the Gail Borden Public Library Volunteer Fair.

Now in its seventh year, the fair is designed to help connect agencies with volunteers — either those looking for quick, drop-in volunteer opportunities, or those looking to take on a stronger role in the community, said librarian Danielle Henson. She and librarian Nancy Haggard have also developed a volunteer referral list, to help connect agencies and volunteers.

Available at the adult services desk, that list also gives potential volunteers an idea of what qualifications and steps are needed to work with any one of the 30 or so agencies on that list, Henson said.

For Haire, she just wants to know that the children she’s working with now will have a place to go to continue their 4-H experience. She also knows there are lots of pressures on families and their children for limited time and limited activities.

“But 4-H, it doesn’t just to teach one skill. It teaches them how to be leaders as they grow, how to get in front of people and speak their mind,” Haire said.

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