When you go to the Platte County Fair next week, drop into the 4-H exhibit building and take a moment to say thank you to Sharen Hunt. Few people who pass through Platte County have touched more children and parents lives than Hunt. She’s retiring at the end of July after 38 years with the University of Missouri Extension Service. Hunt has long served as county program director for Extension in Platte County, but when most of us think of her, it’s with her hat on as 4-H Youth Specialist. A variety of youth programs and activities have crossed her desk.
But at the heart of her career is 4-H.
By the way, there’s a retirement reception scheduled for Hunt from 2 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 9 at the Platte County Resource Center, 11724 NW Plaza Circle in Kansas City, Mo. She has requested no gifts. However, Hunt has opened an account at Platte Valley Bank to support Platte County 4-H. You can donate to the Sharen Supports Platte 4-H fund at the bank.
This is a person who leaves no stone unturned. Even going out the door she’s doing something more for 4-H, and when we say 4-H, we mean youths and their parents.
How do you measure almost four decades of service to youth and community? We don’t have a yardstick big enough, and a lot goes into making the service possible.
For starters, Hunt is a master organizer.
Whether she’s always been this way, or if she’s learned lessons from hard knocks, I don’t know. But if you volunteer to work with Hunt, she’s going to have the time, place, tasks and tiny details figured out. I’ve helped judge part of the 4-H exhibits for her at the fair.
When it begins, a whirlwind of kids, things, judges and parents ensues. Hunt is here adjusting this, and then she’s over there tending to that. But out of what could be chaos comes orderly judging, the 4-H youths feel like they’ve been a part of something that matters.
It does matter.
I have a bit of bias because I’m a 4-H alumnus. I’ve got fair ribbons from both the Jasper County Fair and the Vernon County Fair to prove it. They were many, many years ago affixed to some handy wooden things around the house that my Dad had a big hand in building.
That’s why I keep mentioning parents.
A 4-H experience often involves both youths and parents. One helps. Sometimes they both learn, but it is something done together. No organization is more family friendly than 4-H.
Hunt has been at her post long enough to see 4-Hers grow up, get married, have children, send them to 4-H. I’m too shy to ask her if she’s helped grandkids or great-grand kids of the first 4-Hers she served. The Platte County Fair is billed as the oldest continuous fair west of the Mississippi River. Its roots are in the Civil War.
Hunt must feel like she’s been to them all by now.
Under her watch the Internet arose, e-mail began, then became old hat as youths became text masters. In judging photography at the fair, many entries are taken these days with cell phones.
Staying on top of change and keeping a 4-H program going in a rapidly urbanizing county hasn’t been easy.
Platte County is lucky Hunt came and stayed. She’s a Nebraska gal with country roots. The 4-H program was originally designed for rural youths, but she has adapted 4-H in the county to meet changing times. Many children are the better for it.
Hunt for years ran a 4-H congress that drew youths from throughout Missouri and from neighboring states. She has worked on an international event aimed at promoting diversity and harmony.
Many a shy youth who had to help run a 4-H Club meeting or explain their project to a judge got a confidence boost from those proceedings. Kids need accomplishments in their lives. They need rewards for work, but to make it happen, it takes a professional person to organize, prod, offer advice and steer people clear of the pitfalls. Hunt has done all this while also dealing with a multitude of people personalities.
And when you work for the state, there are accounting rules and paperwork requirements that are also challenging.
Hunt also volunteers in the community. She served on the Platte County 175th anniversary committee. She volunteers with the Platte Land Trust.
We wish Sharen Hunt the best of everything in retirement, for she has worked tirelessly to make the best better.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.