Written by: Sara Harper
The 4-H Ontario Serving Hands feature is designed to celebrate the dedication of our amazing volunteers. We hope that these stories inspire you to share your 4-H story.
The Provincial winner for Ontario in 4-H Canada’s 2017 National Volunteer of the Year Award is Linda Debney. She began her 4-H journey as a member in Rainy River where she proudly participated in her favourite club Beef. Outside of her projects, Linda says, “My favourite part about 4-H when I was a member would have to be two things. Firstly, the sense of community 4-H gave me was second to none. Being surrounded by other members who share similar interests gave me a sense of belonging. Secondly, the travel opportunities that 4-H provided for me. I was able to participate in an exchange with a club from Alberta, competed in [Go For the Gold] at the Royal as well as CareerMania and of course [Provincial Leadership Camp]. At the age of 21, Linda took a job in Kenora and finished out her membership with the Kenora 4-H Association where she is now a volunteer.
For Linda, becoming a volunteer wasn’t a difficult decision it “just seemed to be the next natural step. [She] wanted to be a part of something that had such a huge role in [her] youth. Linda primarily leads Beef and Cloverbud projects but she has also led Senior Member Club, Poultry, Pizza, Chocolate, Photography, and a K-9 project where members showed Golden Retrievers.
Watching her members grow into active members of the community and seeing them take the knowledge they have learned and putting it to use is what Linda finds the most rewarding. When asked about the importance of 4-H, Linda replied “It teaches members skills and information that they cannot get anywhere else. Where else can they learn to run a meeting, to write cheques and balance club bank records? We are teaching them to become stewards of the land and how to respect animals. It gives members a sense of belonging and teaches them to be active members of the community that they live.” She is also able to instill the same lessons in her 4-H kids that her leaders taught her. “The leaders I grew up with expected a lot from us members and I now understand why. It’s not because they wanted to make my life hard, they only wanted us to put our best foot forward, they wanted us to excel. As a leader I get that now. We have an amazing group of members, I want them to see the potential that I see in them” says Linda.
Linda is an Assistant at the Hillcrest Animal Clinic in Dryden. She has held the position of Secretary/ Treasurer for the Kenora District Cattleman’s Association for last 3 years and volunteers with the Oxdrift Women’s Institute.