Paulette Macdonald was first introduced to 4-H in 1976 while living in Renfrew County. One of only six local girls who were part of the Greenwood Homemaking Club, she enjoyed the experience of making new friends and learning new skills.
Little did she know that an activity which her mother signed her up for as a kid, would become such a large part of her life, and eventually lead to her winning a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 – for her extensive work as a leader and volunteer in 4-H.
The medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The commemorative award serves as a way to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians, with a total of 60,000 Canadians being recognized in the inaugural year.
Medal recipient and 4-H volunteer Paulette Macdonald was involved in 4-H until she was 18 and went away to school. After later getting married, she and her husband Wayne became involved as leaders in the late 80’s before taking a break to have their son. By 2000 Macdonald was once again getting the itch to become involved in 4-H, and to see her son have the 4-H experience, despite living in a bigger city—Sudbury.
“I wanted my son to experience 4-H and we didn’t live in the country anymore,” she said. “I felt like he would never experience the farm and agriculture unless I created a 4-H club.”
So Macdonald created one of the first urban 4-H clubs and got involved at the board level for both the district and region; an experience she says gave her the opportunity to meet a variety of people and talk to adults with similar interests.
It was her work on a miniature horse farm with her husband that gained them both a nomination for the medal. The farm was set up to provide a therapeutic riding program for challenged adults. However, with so many horses, the owners were strained for time to train all of the horses to become socialized with adults. The owners found a solution in Paulette’s club.
With 18 kids in her 4-H project, Paulette was able to incorporate a horse project where members would come to the farm once a week to get the horses used to being touched, groomed and walked by people. Members also learned all the basics about horses, from body parts and breeds, to housing, nutrition, and how to put a halter on and tie a horse to a fence. At the end of the program members would show the horses at the Warren Fair.
“What I get out of the project is the love of being back on a farm every week and being near horses,” said Macdonald. “I feel like I’m at home again and I love being around members and helping them.”
Macdonald has spent many years involved with 4-H Ontario as a resource, a leader, and a volunteer. Her tireless efforts have earned her much recognition.
Obviously Macdonald was thrilled to receive this distinctive honour, but she says the true reward was just knowing that someone (one of the fathers at the club) took the time to nominate her and her husband.
“He gave me the gift that day just by saying he had nominated us. I felt like I received my gift that day.”