Most readers are aware that my career was in giving leadership to 4-H, being assigned to Vernon County in 1961. One year a young lady came into the office and offered to be a chaperone on one of our 4-H trips. This lady, showing much enthusiasm had been a 4-H member in Kansas and wanted to get involved.
We needed someone to go to the program in Columbia which we called the State 4-H Week at that time. Co-workers from other counties could not believe that such a quality person came in and volunteered to be a chaperone.
That is how I first met Virginia Habjan, honored recently as having been a 4-H leader for 35 years. There have been others with 35 or more years of 4-H leadership, however it remains a rarity. Since that first visit to the office, she has volunteered in a variety of ways and has made a major contribution to the 4-H program and in the lives of boys and girls. Her leadership exemplifies the many good 4-H leaders involved with 4-H.
Virginia and her husband Joe, now retired from 3-M, are parents of six children. She is serving her fourth term as public administrator for Vernon County. It is like a 24/7 job as she gets calls at most any hour each day of the week, including holidays.
Among the family's many activities and responsibilities, they are active members of St. Mary's Catholic Church.
Virginia says that it does not seem like 35 years. She expressed that 4-H is a good program. Like it was when she walked into my office for the first time, she still is enthusiastic about 4-H and what it accomplishes.
At present, she is serving as the club leader for the West Point 4-H Club where they have about 30 members and have had a growth in membership this year. One of her strong characteristics as leader is her ability to delegate. In the club they have other leaders serving as assistant leaders.
The West Point 4-H Club places effort on community service. There are two examples of ways they are doing community service. One is that they do the luminaries for Relay for Life, which is a major task with the large number of luminaries for that important event. The second example is that the members of the club help to decorate the Barone Care Center for Christmas.
During the years she has been a project leader for several different projects. Virginia served several years as an advisor to the 4-H council. She has been involved with the youth fair in a variety of ways, including serving several years as chairperson of the home economics building.
The 35-year leader is a promoter of the trips to the National 4-H Citizenship Conference held at the National 4-H Center, near Washington. She views this special trip as an event from which the members will gain much information that will be helpful in life. Five of the Habjan children have attended the National 4-H Conference. Two of them had an experience of working at the National 4-H Center. Plans are that Dominic, the youngest of the children, will be making the trip to Washington, D.C., this summer.
According to Carol Parmenter, 4-H youth specialist, Virginia helps out the county program in a variety of ways -- she is always there. One of the things that she does is to provide training to 4-H leaders, if she is available.
Investments in youth do not only include 4-H but other youth programs as well as including the McGennis Youth Center. She has been on the board for the center for a number of years, approximately 15, perhaps longer. As she served on the board, she was an active member, carrying many responsibilities. She is the immediate past president and before she served as president she was vice president and again this year she has accepted the vice president's position.
Virginia has worked actively for the promotion of the youth center, including coordinating with university extension to make a video about the center which was shown at clubs and organizations. This year she headed up the special 40-40 program, an effort to raise $40,000 for the 40th year of the center.
Bob Schlyer, Rich Hill, is a past officer and a long-time member of the board. He described Virginia as being very aggressive, trying to benefit the center. He said, "She is a super excellent person to raise money for the center. She has great ideas and follows through. One of the best fund-raising persons the center ever had.
Virginia researches possible sources of grants and fills out applications to pick up funds. Bob says that she usually will come up with something. The 40-40 program is going good and has raised money for the center because of it.
Carol commented that Virginia sees the big picture of what 4-H is all about. She is a good encourager as she encourages kids to try new things. "She (Virginia) is a big supporter of 4-H, and realizes the value of 4-H program when done right, which I appreciate."
Having tenure does not necessarily mean that a leader has quality. Others may have quality, but not tenure. Virginia has both tenure and quality as a 4-H leader. One of her traits is that she is well organized.
The 35 year 4-H leader is deserving of a bouquet of four leaf clovers. She deserves a great amount of thanks from the community for her leadership to 4-H, to the McGennis Youth Center, and in other ways.
Congratulations to Virginia for 35 years of 4-H leadership.