Archive of ‘4-H’ category

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.




4-H youth, local library inspire “Pick Up Laurel Day”

An overcast day with a good chance of rain didn’t stop 35 motivated volunteer members of the Laurel community who gathered to help “Pick up Laurel.”  The rain held off, helping volunteers efficiently span out across designated sectors of the historic town on Saturday, March 16. Their mission – to clean up the crumpled cans, paper and discarded bric-a-brac that had collected on curbs, sidewalks and other public areas.  Two hours later, 22 bags were filled with trash and hoisted away– giving the small town of Laurel that extra sparkle it needed and deserved.

Pick Up Laurel is a two-part community project sponsored by the Laurel Public Library, Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Laurel Historical Society in partnership with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Community (EYSC) project in Laurel.

Engaging Youth, Serving Communities is a service learning program.  Youth and adults learn about an issue, bring it to the community for discussion, and then do something about the issue.  On Saturday, March 16, a great deal was accomplished.  The second part, Walk Laurel, is a update of the Laurel Historical Society’s Walking Tour of Laurel Brochure, which will be premiered at the upcoming St. Phillips Strawberry Festival May 21.

Pick Up Laurel Team ready to go!

Saturday morning, volunteers were greeted by the EYSC team, signed in, and were given “Geek the Library” T-shirts to wear before being divided into small teams.  Litter can assume many forms and can carry risks – so safety precautions were reviewed. Each team received gloves, a supply of bright green trash bags, a first aid kit and bottled water.

Dr. Bill McGowan a UD Extension community development agent and the project’s coordinator opened the event and thanked everyone for donating their Saturday and participating in the cleanup effort.  He complimented the group, in particular the Laurel Library, for beginning the conversation that resulted in the pickup plan. Before embarking on their civic mission, McGowan urged the volunteers to take in more than just trash, urging them to look beyond their target paper, plastic and tin and embrace the charm and unique characteristics of Laurel. “It’s a great town with a lot of history,” McGowan said.  “You have a note pad! Use your camera! Tell us the story. Look at the houses, enjoy yourself. Take pictures of the good stuff. It’s not just about the trash.”

Leaving from their central location at the Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center (train station) volunteers ventured outward, equipped with maps that marked out sectors and significantly littered “hot spots.”  Groups quickly filled their first supply of trash bags and called into the Chamber for reinforcements.

While they walked the neighborhood, the teams noted potential issues that might need attention, such sidewalks and storm drains that need repair. One group the Friends of Trap Pond, tackled a small ravine on 6thStreet near Rossakatum Branch and filled two bags with litter.  Another encountered the first snake of the season – a garter–and braved on with their clean-up efforts!  Another group realized just how close the sidewalk is to the very busy West Street.

A hot spot in Laurel gets some attention

With a combined 70 hours of work, the community effort had amassed a small mountain of lime green bags and covered six of their targeted 12 sectors.

Wendy Roberts, director of the Laurel Public Library, thanked the volunteers for their hard work.  “Laurel is a better place because of you!” she said.  Don Dykes, Laurel Chamber executive director, suggested, “Maybe the service clubs in Laurel could adopt a section and pick up Laurel every quarter!”  Laurel Mayor John Shwed, who could not attend, sent along his appreciation, “I congratulate all on volunteering their time and effort to clean up the Town of Laurel.  If I did not have this other previous commitment I would gladly join you.”

A good morning’s work!

McGowan acknowledged the following organizations, companies and individuals for their support and sponsorship: Eva Dupont of ServPro of Sussex County.  ServPro signed on as a corporate sponsor providing a truck and supplies for the pick-up, pizza for the volunteers and joined the clean-up.  Jay Hall and Amanda Brown from the Delaware Department of Transportation and Mike Love, UD Extension safety agent and member of Safe Kids Sussex County provided safety vests, and Glenn Stubbolo, volunteer coordinator for Delaware State Parks for guidance and most importantly the Youth Helping Community team: Jerrica Robertson, Samantha Purnell, Darlene Murat, Cindy Murat, Kimmora Tatman and Brandon Bradshaw.

Pick up Laurel Day emerged from a town conversation sponsored by the Laurel Public Library during the “Geek the Library” initiative.  In the conversation the opportunity to start a 4-H program Engaging Youth, Serving Communities emerged.  Wendy Roberts and Dr. McGowan agreed to establish the program.  Laurel youth identified Town Appearance as the primary issue.  The group developed a discussion guide that offered three ways to approach the town’s appearance; Safety, Economic Development Opportunities and Pride in our Town.  The youth team hosted and led the forum attended by approximately 20 people including the mayor, council president, chamber of the commerce and citizens.  The discussion was lively with taking pride in our town certainly the most energetic topic.  After the conversation, the group decided to focus on two projects, Pick up Laurel Day and a Walk Laurel brochure.

Over two months of weekly meetings youth and adults developed a plan to identify and solve problems.  They created a supply list and budget, met with the executive director of the Chamber, they walked Laurel and took pictures, looked at houses and parks for areas that needed special attention, they divided Laurel into sections for clean-up, developed a poster and recruited volunteers. Through these combined efforts, “Pick Up Laurel” was ready for launch.

“All good work starts with a conversation,” McGowan said. “We are here today because successful communities know how to talk about what is important to them and then do something about it.”

Two small town forums hosted by the Laurel Public Library sparked this activity.  Putting words into action is what distinguished this community effort from other organized clean-up activities.

Sussex County 4-H celebrate young public speakers

Did you know that staying eight seconds on a rodeo bull causes numerous requests for a young man’s autograph?  And “No Plate Like Home,” isn’t about Oz, it’s about what it feels like sliding into home plate at a softball game. From family pets, honoring historical figures, and relating stories of leadership and bravery – including taking a polar plunge – 23 4-H youth  participated at the 2013 Sussex County 4-H Public Speaking Contest, held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

From left to right, Aydan Vanderwende, Jill Koski, Mikayla Ockels and Stephen Magee

A large crowd of supporters and family members braved the falling snow to support to support the young speakers, who competed in four age divisions; beginner (8-9), intermediate (10-11) junior (12-13) and senior (14 and older) Extemporaneous speaking debuted this year as a county-level category and challenged three candidates to sharpen their skills and think on their feet in front of an audience. Extemporaneous topics were assigned only 20 minutes before going on stage.

Meredith Carey, Age Division 10-11, topic was “A Leader and a Role Model.”Meredith is from the Bridgeville 4-H Mustangs

4-H'er at a lectern and microphone

This was Aydan Vanderwende’s first 4-H Public Speaking Contest, entering at the Beginner Age Division 8-9. His speech was entitled “Must Love Dogs” Aydan is a member of the Dublin Hill 4-H Club in Bridgeville.


The fear of public speaking is often cited as one of the most common phobias!

For 4-H youth members however, speaking before a crowd is easier thanks to the experience and public speaking practice learned at the club and county level.

Jill Koski, Age Division 12-13, talked about softball in “There’s No Place Like Home.” Jill lives in E. New Market, Md. and belongs to the Seaford Blue Jays 4-H Club


Aside from the new category, 4-H members select a topic of their choosing, focus their research and practice their oratory before presenting to an audience and a panel of judges. The speeches of the older age divisions are longer in length. 4-H contestants are evaluated on subject matter, thoroughness of their research, poise, appearance and natural delivery. Each year as 4-H’ers move up through the divisions, their confidence and ease at speaking before an audience is a proud and noticeable accomplishment.

Stephen Magee had only 20 minutes to prepare for his assigned topic, Favorite Family Memory. Stephen was one of three participants in a new Extemporaneous category. Stephen is a member of the Harbor Lights 4-H Club and lives in Lincoln.

“A lot of people do not realize the preparation time that goes into this event,” says Mary Argo, Sussex County 4-H Agent. “They select a topic and spend hours writing, organizing and practicing their speech. Knowing how to speak and speak well is a skill that will last them a lifetime,” Argo says.

Mikayla Ockels, Age Division 14-19, spoke on “Your True Nature”. Mikayla is from Milton and belongs to the Harbor Lights 4-H Club







The following 4-H youth have won their age division and four will repeat their speech and compete at the state level during the Delaware State Fair in July, 2013.


Winners are:


Name/Hometown/Division/Title/4-H Club:

  • Mikayla Ockels, Milton, Senior Division, “Your True Nature” Harbor Lights
  • Jill Koski, E. New Market, Md. Junior Division, “There’s No Plate Like Home” Seaford Blue Jays
  • Meredith Carey, Bridgeville, Intermediate Division, “A Leader and Role Model”! Bridgeville Mustangs
  • Aydan Vanderwende, Bridgeville, Beginner Division, ”Must Love Dogs” Dublin Hill
  • Stephen Magee, Lincoln, Extemporaneous Division, “A Favorite Family Memory” Harbor Lights

Other participants were: Jenna Anger, Rebecca Arpie, Kyle Morris, Autumn Lenhart, Micah Magee, Alanna Vanderwende, Kaylabeth Lubiniecki, Adrianna Cannon, Thomas McCabe, Joe Anderson, Meredith Carey, Luke Stachow, Kaitlyn Willin, Alexandria Nechay, Cline Broussard, Erin Carey, Matthew Rieley, James Rieley,  Olivia Goehringer.

2013 Sussex County 4-H Public Speaking winners will vie for state honors in July at the Delaware State Fair alongside the 4-H Public Speaking winners from Kent and New Castle County.  View the entire photo gallery here.

Photos by Jackie Arpie, 4-H Youth Photographer
Article by Michele Walfred


A beautiful day for “You Just Have to Look”

It couldn’t have been a nicer day for 59 registrants who attended You Just Have To Look, a family friendly Master Gardener workshop!  Before outside explorations, Master Gardener Brent Marsh provided workshop attendees with an orientation of the wonders of insect life in the garden.  One of the highlights was how different mature insects look from baby insects, how insects change and transform, and what is the difference between a good or “beneficial” insect and pest insects that eat crops!

With 10X triplet loupes in hand (children got to take theirs home) everyone went out to the Sussex County Master Garden Demonstration Garden for an afternoon of family, learning, color and exploration.

“You Just Have to Take a Look” at these photos!

Sussex 4-H announce 2012 summer day camps

Sussex County 4-H will once again continue its tradition of offering day camps to area youth in Seaford and Georgetown this summer.

This year’s theme is “A Week at the Zoo!”  Counselors are busy preparing for different classes such as:  Arts & Crafts, Recreation, Food & Nutrition, Animal Awareness, and Dance.  Throughout the week, campers will also hear from guests on topics such as safety, healthy living, and of course, zoo animals!  Come join in the fun at one of the following camps!

  • Seaford Day Camp will be held at the Seaford Middle School, Monday, July 9 – July 13.  Cost for the 5-day camp is $75.00
  • Georgetown Day Camp will be held at the Georgetown Presbyterian Church, Tuesday, July 31 to Friday, August 3. Cost for the 4-day camp is $65.00

For more information, visit the Sussex County 4-H Day Camp page, where you may also download an application.  All camp applications must also include a health form.

Sussex 4-H Day Camps are opened to all Delaware youth ages 5-10. You do not have to be a member of 4-H to Join. Please see our special needs page for more information.  or call Jill Jackson at (302) 856-2585 x 524.


A bootiful two days for Sussex County’s 4-H farm tour at Hopkins dairy, Lewes

In rain and in sunshine, Sussex County 4-H held their annual two-day farm tour at Green Acres Farm in Lewes on Wed. May 9 and Thurs. May 10.  The dairy farm, the largest in Delaware  – milking 550 cows three times daily,  is owned by the Hopkins family, longtime 4-H supporters who have opened their barn doors for agricultural education for the past 26 years.

Luke Hopkins cuddles a baby chick inside his family's animal barn

Wednesday’s rain didn’t dampen this year’s exploration as more than 700 children, visited the farm’s many attractions, such as Pig Alley and Calf Lane and a tractor ride.  Sussex County 4-H focuses this agriculture education outreach for students in preschool to grade two. Students register through their schools. Each preregistered student received a free cone from the Hopkins Farm Creamery, which opened in 2009. Students, well-prepared in slickers and rain boots of many colors, confirmed that ice cream tastes as good in the rain as it does in the sun.

Thursday’s total neared 1,000 youth.  Wednesday’s rain had left a few mud puddles for the pigs to play in, delighting the students who watched them frolic in the soft, gushy Delaware soil.  In all, an estimated 1900 visitors in all,  including teachers, parents, chaperones, Extension staff and 4-H and Master Gardener volunteers, attended the farm tour on both days.

Hollymount 4-H'ers Colleen Anderson, Grace Hopkins and Holly Anderson show off their show cows!

During the tour, students, who leave the bus pinching their noses, eventually forget the farm aroma and begin to  make the connection between the family farm and the final food product – usually referred to as ‘farm to fork’ in this case was ‘farm to cone!’  Teachers and students have an opportunity to meet the Hopkins family; Walter and his wife Jenny; son Burli and wife Allison; and the next generation of Hopkins farmers, 4-H’ers Michael, Jacob, Grace and Luke who can be seen throughout the tour comfortably hanging out with the pigs, lovingly tugging on a cow’s ear and sharing their farm experiences with visitors.

Burli and dairy farm manager Bob Geiman offered tours of the modern milking process.  School children observed firsthand the all the teamwork efforts that go into producing healthy, nutritious and safe food.

Master Gardener Brent Marsh, AKA Farmer McGregor, asks his audience if they saw who took his vegetables!

Under blue and gold tents Cooperative Extension educators provided additional learning, including exhibits on corn and corn products, healthy beverages and the importance of exercise.  A popular puppet and people show, the Adventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Garden was performed numerous times by volunteer Master Gardeners.

Local 4-H youth members brought their project animals, providing a talkative tom turkey, horse, sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits for young students to interact with and pet. UD Poultry Extension provided a chick hatchery and baby chick display, the inhabitants of which are now taking a much needed rest after being gently cupped by 1700 little hands.

Any area school or daycare center up to the second grade are invited to attend, with registration opening in late January before the May tour. The event is free.

For more information about the Sussex County 4-H Farm Tour contact the 4-H office at 856-7303.
Additional photos and videos of the farm tour may be found at 4-H’s Flickr site:  where photo sets for both days can be found, or visit Sussex County 4-H on

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

Sussex Master Gardeners plan children’s workshop May 19

A young reader enjoys a shady spot in the 2011 Children's Garden, which area children helped to create.

On Saturday, May 19, beginning at 10 a.m.  local children are invited to help create the 2012 Children’s Garden located behind the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center on Route 9, just west of Sussex Tech High School.

The Children’s Garden is a very popular section of the overall Demonstration Garden which is open to the public and featured during many Master Gardener events throughout the year and especially delights families during  their Open House scheduled in July.

Children will work with Master Gardeners to plant seeds and seedlings and learn about theme gardens.

The morning will be begin with a special story, the legend of “The Three Sisters” told by Michele Wright, of the Nanticoke Association.

Afterward, children will be placed in five groups and will rotate for 12 minutes accomplishing tasks at five stations:

  • Composting and Three Sisters Planting – with Tracy Wootten, UD Extension agent, horticulture.
  • Exploring plant growth. Plantings in various areas of the garden and taking a plant home! – with Master Gardeners Mary Sue Colaizzi and Tracy Mulveny. Explore texture, color and help create a growing skirt for “Mrs. Green Beans!”
  • What’s the Buzz with Bees – with Master Gardener Brent Marsh (pssst, he’s also known as Farmer McGregor!)
  • All About Insects – with Master Gardener Ingrid Hetfield.
  • Creating Theme Gardens – with Master Gardener Chris Henderson.

There will also be a special command performance of The Adventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Garden!

This potted man and his potted puppy was a popular attraction in the 2011 children's theme garden! Come help us create this year's theme!

This special Master Gardener workshop is appropriate for children ages 5 to 11. Besides learning new skills, children will grow  a sense of pride and satisfaction creating a garden space  that will evolve, grow and serve as a place that others in the community can enjoy. They will enjoy watching their efforts change  and bloom throughout the summer and fall, and can return to visit often!  This workshop  is free, but space is limited to 20 youth.

In the event of rain, the workshop will be held inside the Carvel REC.

For more information, contact Kim Lewis at (302) 856-7303 or you may register online .

The Master Gardener Demonstration Garden is located behind the Carvel Research and Education Center, with ample parking on the east side of the building. Look for the blue and gold tent just beyond the parking area. Children should wear comfortable and garden-friendly clothes. We will be digging in the soil!

Sussex 4-H member Emma Rider, selected as Delaware’s top high school youth volunteer

Sussex 4-H Member, Emma Rider, selected as Delaware’s top High School Youth Volunteer. 


Emma Rider, 14, of Bridgeville was named Delaware’s top High School youth volunteer for 2012 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.


Mary Argo 4-H Agent, presents Prudential Spirit of Community Award to Emma Rider, of Bridgeville

Emma, a seven year member of the Dublin Hill 4-H Club and a freshman at Sussex Technical High School, has collected nearly 40,000 pairs of used shoes over the past year and a half in order to buy water purification systems in developing countries.  While participating in summer mission trips with EDGE OUTREACH, an international organization that helps prevent waterborne diseases through clean water initiatives, Emma learned that a child dies every 15 seconds from drinking impure water.  She also learned that by collecting shoes, she could have a direct impact on reducing the death toll.


When Emma first started her project, she set a goal of collecting 4,000 pairs of shoes, which would then be sold to an exporter through EDGE OUTREACH and resold to small businessmen around the world.  This would provide enough money to purchase two water purification systems, each capable of purifying more than 10,000 gallons of water per day.  The project also creates jobs, gets shoes on people’s feet, and keeps tons of shoes out of landfills.  Emma organized shoe drives in schools, churches, and 4-H clubs in three states.  Within four months, she had collected 8,500 pairs of shoes.  Then she set her sights on collecting a trailer load of shoes – about 22,000 pairs.  Emma got a trailer from a shipping company, asked local farmers for pallets and large bins, and to promote her effort, scheduled speaking engagements and sent out information packets.  She also recruited volunteers to help pick up and sort donated shoes, as well as organize their own shoe drives.  So far, Emma has collected close to 40,000 pairs of shoes, enough to bring life-saving clean water to nearly 20 communities in impoverished lands overseas.  She hopes to be able to travel to Kenya or Haiti with EDGE OUTREACH in the next year to help install a water purification system.  “It would bring me great joy to see pure water flowing into the cups of children who have never even tasted it before”, she said.


Emma is the daughter of Lori and Dennis Ockels and Rob and Susan Rider.


To learn more about Emma’s project or to find “shoe drive” locations, please contact Lori Ockels at

(302) 542-1485.


More information on EDGE OUTREACH can be found at


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