A Manitoba couple who received national recognition this spring for leadership with the 4-H program says one of the reasons they moved to rural Manitoba was so their own children could be involved in the program.
Philip and Leanne Fenez, who have a small farm near La Salle, were among nine individuals across Canada to earn special recognition from 4-H Canada for exceptional volunteer leadership. The awards were announced during National Volunteer Week.
It’s quite an honour, says the couple, who both grew up in Winnipeg and had no experience with 4-H until they were adults.
“We were St. Vital kids and high school sweethearts,” says Leanne, adding they always planned to move out to the country one day.
Philip said his first impression of 4-H was at a farm show years ago, and from then on having their kids in the program one day was part of the plan too.
“These kids had a milking stand and were asking, “You want to come and milk a goat?’” he recalls. “They were just so effervescent and they spoke so well. It just blew my mind and I said one day I have to put my kids in this.”
Later, with three young children of their own, and settled near La Salle, they started the local club with another family. The Fenez family has been a 4-H family ever since, with Leanne and Philip serving as 4-H leaders a dozen years, including at regional and provincial levels and their own kids, now ages 15, 18 and 20, continuously involved as well. They’ve taken projects from sewing to blacksmithing to car repairs and website development, say their parents, plus the travel opportunities — to places like Costa Rica, Japan, P.E.I. — and 4-H scholarships and chances to go to camp through 4-H have long held their interest.
Meanwhile, 4-H has delivered exactly what impressed Philip years ago.
“From a parental perspective I think parents see what we saw, which is the really well-rounded skills that kids can get out of 4-H, like the communication skills and the meeting management skills and the business knowledge,” said Leanne.
The awards to Canadian 4-H leaders were made through a local nominations process.
Caroline Boddy of the Golden Prairie 4-H Club in Alberta was chosen by a panel of judges as the 2016 National Volunteer Leader of the Year.