During the Great Depression, Edgar Rhodes lived in the country and worked on his family's dairy. He'd seldom been out of the county and never out of the state.
"That was during the deep Depression," he said. "There was no money back then to amount to anything. Our county agent organized a 4-H livestock judging team. I was one of the members. We won state and got to go to Chicago. That just opened a new world for me."
4-H changes lives
Rhodes was a member of 000B Georgia 4-H 1371 from 1929 to 1933. Now a longstanding member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, he gets a closeup look at how 4-H has changed and how it changes the lives of children.
"I've seen kids who hardly had a chance to do anything do things they would never have gotten to do," he said. "It really helps mold a child into an adult who makes a contribution to the community. I'm sold on 4-H, FFA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts."
Commemorative stamp campaign
With 4-H nearing its centennial year, the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents has begun a campaign to have a 4-H commemorative stamp issued.
"Each year, the U.S. Postal Service gets about 40,000 requests for stamp designs," said Royce James, a University of Georgia Extension Service agent in Bibb County and president of the Georgia Association of Extension 4-H Agents.
Support for stamp needed
"The more support you get for your stamp idea, the better your chances," James said. "We're trying to get former 4-H'ers, agents and friends of 4-H across the nation to support the issuance of the 4-H stamp in 2002."
Only 30-35 commemorative stamps are issued each year. A 12-member Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee studies applications and makes recommendations to the Postmaster General.
"Massive support is obviously needed to make the 4-H Centennial Stamp application stand out from all the others," James said.
Send your support
Letters must be sent by March 31 to: Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee, c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Room 4474E, Washington, D.C. 20260-2437.
Letters should explain why a 4-H Centennial Stamp should be issued in 2002. Tell how you are (or were) involved in 4-H, how 4-H has affected your life or is special to you.
Reflecting on what 4-H meant to his life and the lives of other children, Rhodes is a strong supporter. "I think issuing a stamp would be one of the better things that could give 4-H the recognition they deserve," he said.
The origin of the 4-H Club is widely disputed. Many Georgia historians contend that the first 4-H Clubs were the Boys Corn Club in Covington, Ga., and the Girls Canning Club in Hancock County. Ohio claims the earliest program established in 1902.
"4-H actually started in several places about the same time," said Bo Ryles, state 4-H leader with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"When you have a program as successful and powerful as 4-H has been for almost a century, everybody wants to be a part," Ryles said. "The 4- H program has made a lasting impact on the lives of many of us. Right now, we have nearly 140,000 young people in Georgia in the 4-H Club. There are more than 6 million members nationally."
Over the past century, 4-H has helped young people learn by doing. The program began with agricultural roots, promoting young people using their head, hearts, hands and health to make a better world. Now 4-H includes projects from poultry to photography.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)