4-H Club Leadership is “All in the Family”

Judy Bury and Roberta Keller

Have you ever heard the saying, “like father like son”? In this case I must say, “like mother like daughter”! Recently I had the opportunity to learn more about the 4-H tradition of Judy Bury (mom) and Roberta Keller (daughter).
 
National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals. With this in mind, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties would like to showcase Judy and Roberta.
 
Judy (Dahlgren) Bury grew up in Columbia County on a vegetable and dairy farm where she was a 4-H member for ten years. As a 4-H member she enjoyed the 4-H projects that were typical for girls at that time – sewing, cooking, gardening and the like.
 
After she and her husband, Gale, married they moved to Ulster County where they each led separate 4-H clubs in the mid 1960’s. At that time it was pretty much the norm to have separate boys’ 4-H clubs and girls’ 4-H because they each dealt with different 4-H project subjects. The girls’ 4-H clubs centered on learning skills useful in the home while the boys’ 4-H clubs dealt more with farming topics such as raising specific farm animals, raising field crops, working on small engines, and understanding the tractor.
 
In 1968 the couple, along with their first child, Roberta, moved back to a farm in the Kinderhook area. It wasn’t long until Roberta was nine years old and Judy started the Blondies 4-H Club. And, yes, the members chose the name “Blondies” because all of the members had blond colored hair!
 
The Blondies 4-H Club was a mainstay 4-H club in the Kinderhook area for 25 years where Judy with stuck with the project subjects she knew well and that the girls were interested in – foods and nutrition, clothing and textiles, and childcare. Often they would find a community partner and even Roberta’s father, Gale, to teach something different such as CPR, photography, woodworking or rocketry. Three years after the 4-H club started neighbor, Paul Chittenden, helped them get a start in the dairy cattle project, which became another mainstay project area.
 
The 4-H club met at Ichabod Crane High School as it was handy since Judy was a teacher there. Over the years Roberta’s siblings and cousins joined the club, along with their friends and others in the community. Even though the 4-H membership was mainly girls they often brought in boys who were friends or siblings. Everyone joined in the same project work, along with electing officers and having monthly business meetings, enjoying social activities and organizing community service.
 
Roberta continued as a 4-H member until she went to college. Upon her return in 1986 when she started teaching at a local public school, she joined her mother as a leader in the 4-H club. That continued until the early 1990’s, while Roberta and her husband, Kent, started their own family.
 
In the early 2000’s Roberta transitioned to her own 4-H club, the Udderly Impossibles. Again, she started with her own oldest child, Bret, and his friends. The Udderly Impossibles continues today and has members ranging in age from 18 to 5. Roberta is the organizational leader and, now, mom is a project leader. They were both recognized in 2010 with 4-H leadership awards. Judy received the Ruby Clover Award for 30 years of service to 4-H. Roberta received the Diamond Clover Award for her 20 years of service to 4-H. These awards recognize years of service to 4-H as a volunteer leaders, by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
 
Both Judy and Roberta do admit that leading a 4-H club is a commitment but they also find it very satisfying. There is so much that children can learn from being part of a community program like 4-H. They can learn about many different subjects, either with the support of those in their clubs or on their own with the support of the project curriculum. They also experience making decisions as a group, helping others through community service, teaching others through the public presentation program and having fun with their friends.
 
What is the common thread between mother and daughter? Why do they continue this monthly and more commitment? Throughout our conversation I heard a theme of caring and pride. What a legacy they are leaving – for their family and their community.

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