Amelia Vyborny applied a fresh coat of white paint to a picnic table Saturday at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Arlington.
The Herman girl was among dozens of 4-H members who participated in the annual Lend-A-Hand Service Day, a day of service and volunteering for 4-H families to give back to their community.
Prior to last month's flooding, 4-H members had planned to volunteer at various locations around the county.
However, after the flooding Washington County Extension Educator Tracy Behnken and her staff decided to switch gears and focus on the fairgrounds, which was inundated with several feet of water from the Elkhorn River. Behnken said the Extension worked with Washington County Emergency Management and the Washington County Fair Board to bring the day together.
While some 4-H members painted picnic tables, others helped spread fresh wood chips around the playground equipment, clean out the poultry barn, power wash bleachers and display cases and prepare pamphlets for the upcoming Ag Literacy Day.
“It brightens your day when you come down and you see all these little kids willing to help,” Fair Board President Jason Cloudt said. “They've got their muck boots on and their willing to get dirty and get in there and get after it. Obviously, this fair means a ton to them, too. Most of the kids we have down here we've seen here probably since they were old enough to walk.”
One group even walked the grounds to pick up trash.
“The flood does things you don't even imagine. It took trash out of trash cans or brought in trash that wasn't even part of the grounds,” Cloudt said. “Just having a group go around and do that helps us feel a lot better about what it looks like down here, too.”
Working at the fairgrounds where the 4-H members spend a lot of time in the summer will give the youth a sense of community pride, Behnken said.
“The youth that are here all summer, it's kind of a cool visual to see how they can give back in their community in disaster situations,” 4-H Extension Assistant Autumn Lemmer said.
“I think it will be rewarding for them to back here in July,” she said.
While additional cleanup days will be needed and youth may be further involved, the Extension is also looking for college students to apply for a new University of Nebraska student serviceship program to assist with flood recovery efforts.
The program, based on a successful initiative offered the NU Rural Futures Institute, will place up to 50 students directly in communities impacted by flooding. Participating students will gain public service experience while learning how communities deal with natural disasters.
Behnken said it would be ideal for Washington County to find a student from the area. All undergraduate, graduate and professional students from any NU campus can apply.
Duration of the serviceships will vary based on student schedules and the needs of the community. Maximum duration will be 40 hours per week for 10 weeks, starting in late May or early June. Students will be paid $12.50 per hour and may have the opportunity to earn college credit for the work. Students must have access to a car and may request to serve in their hometown.
Applications are available online. For more information, contact Chuck Hibberd, director of Nebraska Extension at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-472-3919