by Greta van Diepen
The history of 4-H in the Morell, P.E.I., area began 59 years ago under the direction of Ada Jay who ran a garment club from her home. This project had five members consisting of 10-year-old girls who formed the first 4-H club – Barb LaPierre, Irene Larkin, Gemma Dunn, Catherine Alyward, and Debbie MacAdam. They were the only project group at this time.
This small but mighty fledgling team demonstrated their creations at the Dundas Fair and the Charlottetown Exhibition. In 1967, club member Barb LaPierre won first prize for her apron and fashion book. These efforts landed her a trip to Toronto to attend a 4-H national club week.
In 1967, Eleanor LaPierre ran the garment club. And in 1972, with the help of Rose Walsh, the Morell club reorganized to offer a variety of projects, including sewing, needlework, crafts, and gardening.
Unfortunately, there were then a few years of no 4-H in the area until a former member worked very hard to bring 4-H back to the community. His name was Brian Dingwell and he became the overall leader. Brian had grown up on a farm and had a passion for the 4-H philosophy to “learn to do by doing.” This new club reflected his background, and projects included calves, ponies, woodworking, and macramé.
Brian served at the district and provincial levels of 4-H, really immersing himself in bringing 4-H back to life in our area. What a great foundation on which to build a future.
With Brian getting busier, Colleen Younie took over the helm as overall leader. Colleen brought with her a vast array of knowledge via her work with the department of agriculture, and she brought her kids! During this time – in the late 1990s and early 2000s – the club grew and boasted 55 members for this small community. At one point, the club had members in 13 projects, including poultry, goat, sheep, beef, foods, exploring 4-H, and junior leadership. Colleen would man this post for 25 years – a pillar in the Morell 4-H history books.
Thanks so much, Brian and Colleen!
In the last 10 years, the Morell and Area 4-H Club has struggled with membership but provides several project options in working with neighbouring district clubs. Joanne Malone has been our overall leader for around 10 years and is always looking for ways to keep our club going in whatever projects our members are interested in. Joanne is our rock!
The cooperation and collaborative effort within the district allows Morell 4-H members to participate in canine, archery, and drawing outside our own current 12-member club.
However, small does not mean non-involved! Our little group stays busy with activities such as visiting a rabbitry and local farms, attending workshops, participating in provincial meetings (thanks Brandon and Joanne!), and assisting with fundraising for other 4-H clubs.
But we’re not all about the work. Head and hands are great character building tools. However, friendships blossom while you’re taking heart and promoting health. Our little club enjoys ski trips, an afternoon at Off the Wallz Splash Park, or walking the trails at Greenwich in the national park. We extend invitations to friends to join us on many of our fun outings. Hopefully, they may want to join our club. New members are always welcome!
Currently, our group of 12 is involved in the following projects: photography, rabbit, dairy, horse and pony, drawing, canine, and archery. We enjoy our community projects such as the roadside cleanup. And many of our members, including myself, have developed more confidence and leadership skills with our supportive communication events.
With the recent provincial reorganization of the overall leader model, our club looks forward to drawing in additional adult support, which will hopefully create more project opportunities and increase membership. Volunteers are most welcome as we strive to maintain this 59-year-old history of 4-H in our community.
For myself, 4-H has meant a deeper appreciation for my father’s farming background and a greater awareness of food production and how that impacts the world. We all need to eat. It has also increased my confidence, provided a place to encourage me to be a leader, and given my creative side a place to shine. I’m really enjoying the photography project.
How amazing that 4-H can do all that for a girl in a small village. Many thanks to those who pioneered and persevered to bring 4-H to my community of Morell!
(Greta van Diepen, 12, is club secretary of the Morell and Area 4-H Club. She just completed Grade 7 at Morell Consolidated School. She belongs to a dairy farm family. In addition to 4-H, she enjoys playing softball, basketball, and soccer, and is a member of the school band.)