Traditions are a theme for the holiday season. Many of us enjoy special traditions with family and friends during Christmastime such as drinking eggnog, singing Christmas carols, or even visiting Santa.
The University of Tennessee Extension also has a tradition…a very rich tradition. This tradition began four years ago in 2006 when Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent Shelly Barnes and 4-H Extension Agents Johnny Barnes and Amanda Gray decided that they wanted to encourage their respective groups to participate in a community service project.
Each year, the Wilson County 4-H members and the Wilson County fce members participate in a joint effort to obtain items to benefit a local non-profit agency.
“The purpose of the project is to help those who help others,” Gray said.
“It is so much more than a regular service project, it is a way to say thank you to the people that work hard all year long to make things better for the people that live right here in Wilson County,” Barnes said. She added this project is very unique in that there are those young and young at heart working together. The project has benefitted many members of the Wilson County community including: Home Safe, Cedarcroft Men’s Home, Brooks House, and in 2009 the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center.
“The Family and Consumer Sciences folks are in charge of deciding which agency needs (the) most help since they are in constant contact with those professionals,” Mr. Barnes said.
While most are enjoying the end of the Wilson County Fair and maybe even the crisp fall weather, UT Extension and their participants are hard at work making sure everyone knows what is planned for the yearly Holiday Service Drive. The non-profit agency is contacted and a wish list is made…then the flyers go out…one to each member! The project winds up each year at the UT Extension Offices’ annual open house. Items are placed under the tree for members and county residents alike to see and share the accomplishments.
“This effort is not about UT Extension, it is about our participants—the 4-H’ers and the fce members—they are learning and giving together,” said Ruth Correll, UT Extension director for Wilson County.
Both groups worked very hard to gather many of the items that were on the list for the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center this year. Teresa Hightower, assistant director of the Senior Citizens Center, shared her shock and excitement about the project.
“When Shelly asked me to come up with the list, I was very surprised. I didn’t even know they had planned it. She said, ‘Hey Teresa, the senior center has been adopted by 4-H and fce…can you get a wish list together for me?’ I sent it in and never thought the members would bring this many items…we are truly grateful.”
“It really is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, it makes you feel like you have really accomplished a great deal when we see how giving our members are and it is an awesome way to end the year,” Mrs. Barnes said.
For more information on this project or to donate items for the Lebanon Senior Center, contact Mrs. Barnes at the UT Extension office at 444-9584 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Hightower at the Lebanon Senior Center at 449-4600 or email@example.com.