That will be a lasting image of how Sharen Hunt operated during her nearly 40-year career as Platte County’s University of Missouri Extension program director and 4-H youth specialist. A packed reception helped commemorate her work Sunday, Aug. 9 at the Platte County Resource Center.
A slide show featuring extension activities throughout the years played while hundreds of well-wishers bid farewell to Hunt, who was, of course, clad in a green dress and matching green shoes.
“Sharen’s a slow talker,” joked extension council chair Drew Meyerowich of the famously loquacious extension director. “Her high energy and enthusiasm have benefited our programs for decades.”
Meyerowich was just one of several speakers, including Platte County first district commissioner Beverlee Roper, to sing Hunt’s praises. Roper presented Hunt with a proclamation from the Platte County Commission.
“Sharen is known throughout the Missouri 4-H community as an innovative 4-H specialist whose ideas and programs are replicated by others,” Roper read from the proclamation. “Her ability to teach, encourage and provide unlimited enthusiasm and boundless energy while mentoring young people benefited Platte County for 37 years.”
One of those young people even returned to thank her in person for her leadership — and for giving a youngster a chance that made a difference in his life.
“In the 1980s, we got our first grant from the Ele-emosynary Society. We used it to buy a slide projector for an alcohol awareness program with puppets,” Hunt told The Citizen during a recent interview on her career. “It was called Don’t Get your Liver in a Quiver.”
Program participants traveled to various schools and put on a puppet show discouraging youth from trying alcohol.
Hunt was approached by a mother whose son desperately wanted to participate, but the boy suffered from a speech impediment. She feared he couldn’t perform. Instead of placing him behind the scenes as requested, Hunt decided to let the boy have a shot at puppeteering.
“It was amazing. He was playing a character, so he wasn’t nervous about his speech when he was performing,” Hunt said. “He became one of our best puppeteers.”
That boy grew up and moved on but came home to Platte County on Sunday to bid Hunt farewell.
Tony Celeste now serves as an investigator for the Kansas office of the state fire marshal after a career in law enforcement across Missouri and Kansas. At the reception, Celeste thanked Hunt for the early positive educational experiences he had in Platte County Extension programs.
Celeste is just one of the thousands of youth Hunt has mentored over the years, and it all began, unsurprisingly, with 4-H.
Originally from rural Schuyler, Neb., Hunt was active in 4-H as a child herself. After high school graduation — with 86 in her class — she headed off to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and soon found herself back in 4-H, interning in an inner city 4-H program.
After graduation, Hunt came to Missouri with an extension position in Mississippi County, Mo., located in the Missouri boot heel, but later relocated to Kansas City in 1978 where she soon accepted the position as Platte County’s extension program director.
“It took me a lot of time to get into it,” she said of her acclimation to her new position.
Hunt started county-wide events to get more children interested in 4-H and other extension programs — everything from clowning, babysitting, cheerleading and weather courses. Her first Platte County Fair was also an experience, in an un-air-conditioned building with boards set across sawhorses instead of proper tables.
“It was so hot,” she said. “It’s always hot, but at least now we have the air conditioning. I said we, didn’t I? I have to stop saying that.”
That will be a hard habit to break because Hunt has been instrumental in many programs, both past and present. Under her tenure, the extension has launched Character Council and Platte Pet Power as well as the Platte County Ethnic Festival.
All will now continue under new leadership.
“It’s been a good ride,” Hunt said. “There have been challenges, but it’s been wonderful, and everyone has been supportive and welcoming and willing to take risks and try new things. It’s a great county.”