BARNEGAT, NJ - The Ocean County 4-H program’s mission statement focuses on enabling “youth to become competent, caring, and contributing citizens of the world.”  Amidst fears associated with the coronavirus, the challenge becomes more real.  In Barnegat, there’s no question that tomorrow’s leaders are up for the task.

Amelia Valente is the Program Associate for Ocean County’s 4H Program. She reports that there are over 200 young people who participate in the organization on a county level.  Meanwhile, the mission actually has worldwide significance.

“We embrace a “learn by doing” philosophy,” said Valente. “And, our clubs went into immediate action to see how they could help.”

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Wendy Hansen is a 4H Leader for the Ecology Club, which she says already had a relationship with the Hampton Ridge Nursing Home in Toms River. Members of the organization acknowledge that the most vulnerable population is the elderly, especially those in nursing homes.

“In the past, our club visited the nursing home, made holiday cards, and even brought along a couple of guinea pigs for introduction, shared Hansen. “Nursing homes have, unfortunately, needed to ban visitors. This leaves residents spending their time indoors watching the news and in need of some cheering up and diversion.”

Hansen’s daughter, Nora, enjoys her part in what she thinks simply as acts of kindness.  Nora has already proven to be community-oriented.  She is one of the originators of Barnegat’s “Adopt a Street” program, which focuses on protecting the planet – starting off on a local basis.

The Ecology Club went to work and started a letter campaign with their friends at the Hampton Ridge Nursing Home.  They also drew pictures to send out so the residents would have something to look forward to without little human interaction.

Meanwhile, other parts of Ocean County’s 4H program have come up with initiatives.  They include the following:

  • The Udder Chaos Club is collecting food and writing cards for those in Assisted Living. As many senior citizens cannot get to the stores because buses have stopped, 4-H Leader Mie Lowe and her company are collecting, picking up, and delivering items to those in need. 4-H families are welcome to reach out to Mie with donations, and 4-H members are encouraged to write cards for the seniors. Mie can be reached at 732-267-0395 ormielowe@comcast.net.
  • The Fine Feathered Friends Club are also writing letters to a nursing home. They are communicating with Complete Care of Bey Lea. in Toms River.

“The Barnegat 4H members also put together a rainbow scavenger hunt for families,” shared Hansen. “The goal was to bring cheer children as their parents helped them locate the rainbows.”

Valente can’t say enough about how impressed she is by the work she sees in progress. “Even though we’re separated, it’s nice to see we all coming together,” she said.