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4-H clubs hold on to some members for generations
By Hafsa Naz Mahmood | Daily Herald Staff

Marisa Zajac of Warrenville, left, gets some feedback on her 4-H photography entry this week from judge Michaelynn Rose, right, of Batavia. Judging of 4-H projects continued through Wednesday.


Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Marisa Zajac, right, from Warrenville, gets feedback on her 4-H photography entry from judge Michaelynn Rose, left, of Batavia.


Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Erika Voogd of West Chicago, right, who was has been involved with 4-H since she was a child, now helps judge projects such as this stained glass window by Nick Coduto of Wayne.


Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/24/2008 12:06 AM

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Victoria Phillips of Villa Park has been cooking up creative projects with her local 4-H club since she was 8.

Arts and crafts, including ceramics, painting and glass fusion, along with cooking have become some of her favorite things to do.

Now, at 13, she loves that it's part of her life and hopes it always will be.

"It teaches me a lot of leadership skills, and it also allows me to express myself through my projects," she said. "And you get to show them off to everybody."

The DuPage County Fair, which continues through Sunday, offers a showcase for all the hard work put in by the children, teens and adults involved in 4-H.

About 240 4-H'ers are expected to show in 1,369 non-livestock projects and 546 livestock projects. Kids can participate in dozens of categories, including visual arts, photography, electricity, animal science, clothing and foods.

Christine Birns knows 4-H both as a participant and a leader. She has been involved since she was a child and is now 4-H coordinator for DuPage County, She says 4-H taught her to work with others, the value of giving back to the community, public speaking and leadership.

"I just felt like it was a great opportunity as I was a kid, both educationally and socially," she said. "I just like to give back and give kids the same opportunity I had."

And since her parents also were leaders of her local 4-H club when she was growing up, she values the good friends she made as a child, as well as recently.

"I think the friendships and even the relationships I have now with the volunteers and 4-H'ers is what I would be most passionate about," she said.

What keeps Birns her around is her passion for working with the kids and families.

"I think it's important for younger kids be learning their role in society" she said. "Grasping those ideas early helps them to be more active in society."

When Erika Voogd of West Chicago was a child, 4-H also served as a gathering opportunity for children who shared a common interest - horses.

"The main reason we were all part of the 4-H club was because we had horses," she said. "Back when DuPage County was much less developed, we used to ride our horses all over the place and compete in the county fair."

Voogd, who now judges at the county fair, said 4-H taught her to be involved with a group and how to participate in a group as a leader and member.

"It helped me to learn skills about working with people," she said. "How to target your goals and complete your goals."

Ellen Phillips, a 4-H leader from Villa Park and Victoria's mom, has been involved in 4-H for about 10 years.

All three of her children are involved, and kids are exactly what keep her around.

"(I enjoy) the really positive feedback the kids get from judging," she said, "and all the opportunities they have as they get older."