4-H: Building Community Through The Ages



“You know, this is the first time I’ve ever done any of this,” one elder exclaims, as she puts the finishing touches on a vegetable sushi roll. A group of 4-Hers scurry around the table, looking for sticky rice, slabs of seaweed, carrot and cucumber slices, as they assemble veggie sushi rolls with residents of the Pioneer Home.

IMG_4170.JPG4-Hers working on 2017 Parade of Species masks.

IMG_4168.JPGGrace and Martha work on animal masks for the 2017 Parade of the Species. 

IMG_3154.JPGEmma, Lydia, and Madeline making snack recipe pouches.

The Sitka Spruce Tips “Alaska-Way-of-Life” 4-H program piloted a new program this past March involving a weekly engagement with elders at the Sitka Pioneer Home and 4-H youth. The Sitka Pioneer Home is an assisted living home located in the heart of downtown Sitka, adjacent to Sitka Conservation Society's office.

The mission of Sitka Conservation Society is grounded on building sustainable communities in the Tongass National Forest. Though the word “sustainable” has a variety of definitions, I believe an important component of cultivating sustainability is creating connections between young and old community members. Seeing how different members of 4-H have been able to do this has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my year as a Jesuit Volunteer coordinating the 4-H program.

IMG_3378.JPG4-Hers and Pioneer Home residents eagerly await instructions for the day. 

IMG_4291.JPGTommy takes a turn at indoor Bocce Ball: one of the favorite activities during the series. 

IMG_3376.JPGLydia puts the final touches on sweet potato carrot apple muffins (recipe from Skye).

The initial program began as healthy snack making with the Pioneer Home residents. 4-Hers made sweet potato fries, zucchini chips, carrot and apple muffins, huckleberry granola bars, and vegetable sushi. The weekly meetings have developed into “Community and Crafts” - focusing on making crafts that spread positive energy and cheer throughout the home.


Working on abalone shell window crafts.

IMG_4167.JPGZailey and Melba working on animal masks for Parade of Species.


Piano superstar Angela shares music with residents after Community and Crafts.

Projects have included decorating clothespins with positive messages, making abalone shell window hangers, and passing out spring cards to residents. Break-out sessions of dancing, piano, and indoor bocce ball have also happened. Youth and elders share knowledge, laughter, and learn new skills together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time - how the years are moving faster, and imagining only how quickly it will continue as I move through my life. No matter what age, I see the value in engaging in new experiences - to keep a childlike mind - to explore and navigate the world with a sense of awe and wonder, which is exactly what this program encourages.




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