4-H cooking volunteers – it’s more than baking cookies!

Sometimes the memories made as a 4-H volunteer are as great as the chocolate chips you teach youth to bake.

When you teach a child to bake, cook, sew or garden, you don’t just teach them that skill. You teach them valuable life skills as well as practical skills while serving as a role model. The 2016 State 4-H Awards Program asks delegates to reflect on the life skills learned while participating in various projects, and that encouraged me to reflect on how my leaders interacted with me when I was a youth. My very first baking project was chocolate chip cookies made with my 4-H leader Ruth. Looking back, it wasn’t just about the cookies.

Ruth taught me how to measure, sift, stir, bake and taste. I learned that if you make a mess, you clean it up. The best cookies are those made with love and the best memories are made in the kitchen. She taught me about forgiveness and compassion in those moments when we discussed what was happening in my life. She demonstrated those qualities with her interactions with others and led by example. She listened carefully, asked questions, offered advice, encouraged me to try new projects and helped with school work. She used those measuring cups to help make sense of my math assignments and taught me how to make real hot chocolate on the stove.

Her cookie jar was always open and I remember it being filled with nothing but chocolate chip cookies. To this day when I bake chocolate chip cookies, they remind me of her and I am taken back to her kitchen with the table and bench seating. I picture her sink, counter and hear her voice in my ear; I know she is looking down proud of who I have become and is pleased her chocolate chip cookie recipe is still used and now shared with my boys. It has helped them win a few ribbons and facilitated some time in the kitchen with my sons building their basic baking skills.

The memories of her as a leader and friend are better than the chocolate chips. She thought she taught me how to bake, but in reality she taught me a great deal more. She taught me to appreciate time with my children, the value of volunteering, how to teach another person and that life is to be shared just like the cookies in the jar. That is why chocolate chip cookies will always be my favorite cookies – they inspire the best memories.

For you, it might be chocolate chip cookies, but what is it that you recall? Who made that impact on you? Who could you make an impact on? You can change the lives of young people in your community and become a volunteer. Start you adventure as a volunteer, one that will pay priceless dividends. The journey to your volunteer experience begins with a call or visit to your Michigan State University Extension county office. Adventures come in all project areas and require different commitments, so contact us today to get more information.

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