Michigan 4-H members make direct impacts in their communities through Dare to Serve Challenge

Serving one’s community not only benefits the community but also encourages positive mental health for the volunteer.

4-H youth and adults hold American flags while posing for picture.
Volunteer youth and adults placing flags at Burr Oak Cemetery. Photo by Debbie Adamski.

Michigan 4-H is proud of our statewide commitment to serve our communities. The 2021 Dare to Serve Challenge was a fun way to encourage 4-H clubs and individuals to look for ways to serve their communities. The goal was for all 83 counties to submit a project to “turn their county green” on our Michigan map. Sixty-three of the 83 counties accomplished that goal.

Boy and girl holding butterflies they made.
As part of the Lake County Service Project, Butterflies of Hope, youth made butterflies to lift the spirits of the residents at Grand Oak Retirement Home. Photo by Ethan Smith.

The Dare to Serve Challenge had a huge impact in communities around the state. The estimated number of people impacted was 22,535. However, most projects didn’t list a number of people but instead listed items such as whole community, everyone who visited the fairgrounds, whole school districts, unknown, animals, everyone using campground, hospital employees, etc.

Man poses with a sign that says "Book Drive."
Russ Mawby service project book drive to benefit the Marquette Women’s Center. Photo by Leland Swift.

Projects varied but some examples were pop can collection, buying food, donating to hungry families, book collections, building fairy book boxes, cleaning up trash in parks and along roads and/or playgrounds, placing American flags in a cemetery, and making thank-you cards to butterflies of hope. Many clubs helped to prepare local fairground for county fairs. Others were more personal by supporting local teens with health challenges. There were 35 individual and 55 club projects submitted by Aug. 31.

Youth cleaning up the fairgrounds.
Howardsville 4-H club preparing the St. Joseph County fairgrounds for the county fair. Photo by Brittany Bogema.

In partnership with Learning to Give Organization, the success of the challenge is due to the statewide youth involvement, 4-H leaders and volunteers and Michigan State University Extension staff. Without their dedication to their communities, our initiative would not have been so impactful. So many wonderful 4-H members and families were the driving force behind getting these projects completed. They started by assessing the community need, planning and taking action. These were all important steps for success, but also reflection when the job was done is equally important.

Youth stand next to car full of donated food.
Landen and Keegan, Shiawassee County, collected cans to turn in and purchase can food to donate back to the community. Photo by Kayla Budden.

Mental health was also a focus of this challenge. Danykah, a youth on the Dare to Serve Committee, noticed the need to lift others up during this time. She wrote positive messages and left them for students around her school, hoping to brighten someone’s day. According to a Mayo Clinic article, “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits,” helping others also helps you by reducing stress, depression, keeping you active and building relationships.

Youth showing another youth how to show a sheep.
Abigail sharing her knowledge of showing sheep to help a 4-Her prepare for fair. Photo by Sandi Pyle.

The Dare to Serve Challenge is an annual event Michigan 4-H will continue in the future. It is never too early to plan your service project for your community. MSU Extension encourages individuals and clubs to utilize our Philanthropy Education resource for future planning and projects.

4-H grows successful youth through positive developmental relationships. If you would like to learn more, visit the Michigan 4-H website. To learn more about youth development programs, contact D’Ann Rohrer at drohrer@msu.edu or 231-845-3361, or our 4-H Leadership, civic and cultural engagement team at 4H.LCCE.team@msu.edu .

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

Find other global educational opportunities on the MSU Extension Global and Cultural Education website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension county office

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