4-H Community service project directed towards pet owners

4-H members think outside the box to develop community service programs that fit the needs of target audiences.

Items donated to H.E.A.R.T. of 4-H at 2015 Michigan 4-H Veterinary Science Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop.

Items donated to H.E.A.R.T. of 4-H at 2015 Michigan 4-H Veterinary Science Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop.

Looking for a new community service project? There are numerous opportunities to make an impact in your local community and help those in need. A different twist on helping others is a yearly tradition and a component of the Michigan 4-H Veterinary Science Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop. The workshop, which was held Feb. 27-28, 2015 at Kettunen Center, once again asked 4-H members and leaders to donate for the Helping Elderly and Animals Reside Together (H.E.A.R.T of 4-H) program. While attending the workshop, 4-H members and leaders from across the state donated more than 60 cans, bags and boxes of cat and dog food to the community service project.

The H.E.A.R.T of 4-H program was created to fill a need in Midland County. Former 4-H member Andrew Weaver created the program as a high school junior in an effort to help the elderly continue to own pets by collecting dog and cat food donations to ease some of the financial responsibility of animal ownership. This fits a need that can often go unmet because many elderly do not have the means to purchase or travel to a store for these supplies. This program was started to help supply the elderly with pet food so that they can keep these animals that are often their closest companion. Pet ownership and the human-animal bond that has been established can be important for maintaining good health for elderly individuals. This program operates by having people donate food that is then taken to Midland County Senior Services and distributed with the Meals on Wheels program.

Programs like the H.E.A.R.T of 4-H can be started in your local community. Michigan State University Extension encourages youth to follow the 4-H pledge: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, My heart to greater loyalty, My hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world. In many ways, 4-H members can make a difference in their community while also learning many life skills that will assist them through the rest of their lives. Community service activities can take place in multiple locations and in numerous different forms.

Weaver, now a senior studying animal science at Michigan State University, looks to pass on the program to other youth. Weaver stated, “Many people don’t realize senior citizens who have pets often aren’t able to provide food for them. This program works with the Meals on Wheels program to not only provide food for the seniors, but their pets as well.”

If you are interested in starting a program like this, or would like to take over and continue to grow the program in Midland County, please contact Weaver at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Go online contact your area Meals on Wheels provider about local opportunities for collaboration.

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