Mary Argo wins Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County

Delaware 4-H announced Mary Argo as the 2013 recipient of the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County. Argo was honored during the Sussex County 4-H annual achievement celebration held at the Carvel Research & Education Center in Georgetown  on Sept. 28, 2013, and attended by approximately 150 4-H families and supporters.

L to R: Mark Manno, Lindsay Gooden Hughes, Mary Argo, Alex Gooden

Argo, who retired in April 2o13 as Sussex 4-H educator was surprised as her name was called to the stage. In attendance to  support her grandchildren in  4-H, and to later present the Friend of 4-H Award  to volunteer leader Dr. William Campbell, Argo had spent a great deal of her career happily handing out awards to others.  Her arrival on stage to accept the honor was met with a standing ovation.

“This is a surprise! I had not a clue about this!” Argo exclaimed. “I have been very, very jealous of all the people who have gone before who have won this, ” Argo continued. “This is a wonderful, wonderful award. I can’t think of anyone finer to follow than Joy Sparks.”

The Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award was established in 2009, in memory of Joy Sparks, Delaware 4-H program leader, who died in February 2009. The honor recognizes outstanding achievement in individuals who exhibit dedication, enthusiasm and embody 4-H values. The four H’s of the program represent Head, Heart, Hands and Health, which members and volunteers pledge to dedicate to their club, community and country through leadership, citizenship and the furtherance of life skills and community service.

Mary Argo’s career began at the University of Delaware 23 years ago, the last 18 as Sussex County 4-H agent. One of Argo’s signature events was coordinating the annual 4-H Spring Farm Tours at Green Acres Farm – an event that invites area school children to visit Delaware’s largest dairy farm, owned and operated by the Hopkins family of Lewes.  Each year, for two day in May, this valuable partnership welcomes between 1,500 and 2,000 youth who embark on discovery  and participate in the sounds, smells and textures offered as lessons in an authentic agricultural experience – oftentimes, receiving their first introduction to Cooperative Extension and the University of Delaware. With the help of  Argo’s  colleagues at Carvel, tens of thousands of young students have been reached through this one event alone during her tenure as 4-H agent.

In a prepared statement, Argo was recognized for her belief  in the value of personal visits, through which Argo cultivated many strong community relationships throughout her career.  A particular favorite program Argo initiated was Fridays with 4-H, an afterschool program at La Casita in Georgetown. Every Friday, Argo introduced 4-H curriculum and experiential learning activities. The  outreach program impacted hundreds of Hispanic youth in Sussex County and was the direct result of Argo’s networking and personal touch in her community.

“All who know Mary never fail to mention her tireless work ethic, positive outlook and enthusiastic dedication to make 4-H available to every child in Delaware,” said Mark Manno as he read from the nomination. “She has never missed an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an accomplishment of a 4-H youth member or adult volunteer.”

Argo joined 4-H at the age of 10, as an inaugural member of the Broadkill Kool Kats 4-H Club, a club founded by her mother, Frances Millman. As an adult, Mary served as the club’s organizational leader for 12 years. In 1986, Argo was inducted into the prestigious 4-H alumni organization known as the Sussex County 4-H Order of the Link. Two of Argo’s daughters are currently Delaware 4-H leaders, and 10 of her 11 grandchildren are currently enrolled in Delaware 4-H.

Argo was joined on stage by members of Joy Sparks family,  brother Alex Gooden and niece Lindsay Gooden Hughes,who presented Argo with the Award. Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry was not able to join family members at the ceremony said later, “Mary richly deserves the 2013 Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award. Her numerous contributions to Delaware 4-H will be long lasting. I wish her the very best.”

For a career and 4-H program dedicated to “Making the Best Better,” Argo’s best will be hard to beat.

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

 

Click here to view additional photos of Argo, and the Sussex 4-H event.

 

 

 

Sussex 4-H youth wake up early to cook and compete

Georgetown Middle School will serve as host for the annual Sussex County 4-H Favorite Foods Contest and Foods and Nutrition Judging Contest, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. More than 80 Sussex County youth from the ages of 5 to 18 will wake up early on their day off and present their knowledge of food groups, menu planning, food and nutrition basics, food safety and healthy food choices. An estimated 250 visitors are expected to attend in support of 4-H youth contestants.

The Sussex County 4-H Favorite Foods and Judging Contests presents a terrific opportunity in a fun learning environment, and children receive tools of the trade and valuable experience in making wise consumer and healthy choices that will last a lifetime.

Highlights of planned events include:

  • Children prepare a food item of their choice provide the recipe. They suggest a meal plan to accompany that recipe, which is showcased before judges and visitors.
  • Contestants learn to properly preserve and display their food entry for judging and interviews. Food safety is stressed.
  • Youth design a presentation place setting for maximum appeal.
  • Judges sample the prepared food and interview each contestant.
  • In a separate Foods and Nutrition Judging Contest youth test their knowledge in such areas as consumer education, cooking terms, MyPyramid and measuring math.
  • Workshop stations designed to educate and entertain, and staffed by experienced professionals, 4-H Junior Leaders and other 4-H volunteers will present:

o   Make it and take it crafts
o   Judging Training Station for  upcoming Wood Science and Photography competitions will also be available to keep youth engaged while they are waiting for the awards
o   Kids Corner – Community service and children’s activities

Sussex County 4-H Extension Educator Mary Argo and 4-H Volunteer Chairpersons Gina Anger and Marian Carey coordinates the day’s events, judges, presenters,  educational materials and volunteer base to make this contest a great success.

Awards, presented in different age and food categories, will be presented at 1 p.m. All attendees afterward are invited to sample the delicious recipes the children have prepared and participants take home a cookbook of all submitted recipes.  Awards are sponsored by the Delaware 4-H Foundation and ribbons are sponsored by the Sussex County Leaders’ Association

When so many children sleep in late and have developed fast food and junk food preferences, these motivated Sussex County 4-H youth act as terrific role models for other children. The Sussex County 4-H Favorite Foods and Food and Nutrition Contests provide the opportunity for youth to learn that many factors go into our food choices – and learning all the components of making wise choices can be presented in an educational and entertaining way.

4-H is a community of young people in America who are learning leadership, citizenship and important life skills. For more information about this event contact 4-H Educator Mary Argo at 856-2585 ext 559.