A labor of love and an exercise in using hands for larger service

YORK COUNTY – It was certainly a labor of love as all the 4-H clubs in York County joined forces this year to raise money and put in the sweat equity to create a new playground at the York County Fairgrounds, just in time for the fair’s 150th anniversary.

The fair has come and gone, but the appreciation for the efforts of kids, leaders, parents and donors continues.

It truly was an exercise of the 4-H motto, in which they pledge their heads to clearer thinking, their hearts to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service and their health to better living, for their clubs, community, country and world.

4-H leader Amy Pohl (a former 4-Her herself whose three kids were also 4-H members until aging out) was one of the organizers who helped get the project off the ground.

She said it was exciting and inspiring to see all the clubs working together to get the playground ready for crowds, an effort achieved in mere months.

Last February, her 4-H Club, the Lively Livestock Club, had a conversation about replacing the original structure which they paid for and installed back in 2011. They asked the York County Ag Society about whether they could take on the project and it was suggested a more permanent, long-lasting structure be built.

“When we put in the original play set, we had no idea how much it would be used and it was certainly loved over the years,” Pohl said. “It got so much usage. So many kids, while attending the fair and events at the fairgrounds, and just from the north York community itself, had played on that structure and it was time for it to be replaced. But when looking at the cost of a new, longer-lasting structure, we decided to reach out to see if other clubs wanted to help.”

And the response was incredible. Joining the Lively Livestock group in the effort were the clubs of McClover Junction (McCool), High Point (York), Gresham Livestock and Waco Livestock. They were also joined by other 4-H members and families from other clubs as well as those who are independent 4-H members.

Their original goal was to raise $30,000. The Lively Livestock Club put in the initial $3,000 and that was instantly matched by the McClover Club. Pohl explained how all the 4-Hers got together to host a pancake feed to raise money, “and the response was amazing. The support was huge.”

The collaborative effort of the 4-Hers and their families resulted in raising $15,000.

It was mid-April when she and McCool 4-H leader Dana Hall approached the York County Commissioners about a grant from the county’s lodging tax money in the visitor improvement fund. They were accompanied by York County Visitors Bureau Director Bob Sautter who said the visitors committee had approved their request. The commissioners agreed to a $15,000 and the project was officially a go.

Once the money was available, they ordered the equipment.

“The company was going to charge us $3,000 to ship it from the plant in Wisconsin, but we had some 4-H alumni who were willing to drive all night to pick it up, and then they brought it back here, saving us that money,” Pohl said. “Then those 4-H alumni and a bunch of 4-H dads got together and assembled it. Another group of 4-Hers met at the fairgrounds on a Saturday morning and put down all the mulch.”

She said the Ag Society covered the cost of the concrete and mulch.

The playground was erected and landscaping was done to enhance the overall experience. Gone was the old playground which had lived out its active life on the west side of the small animal barn – and in its place was a new, safe structure which will serve fair and event goers, as well as the general York County community for many years to come.

“It was the Wednesday night of the fair, about 8:30 p.m., when all the families were moving in their livestock and people were getting ready for the fair,” Pohl said. “As I drove down the street, it just warmed my heart to see that play structure completely loaded with kids, so many little ones laughing and playing together. I couldn’t help but think about how those kids were building friendships with each other that will last a lifetime.

“In 4-H, there might be competition, because that’s how the kids learn, by doing, but it’s not about winning because that’s not what we want to teach the kids,” Pohl said. “It’s about the community service we provide, again learning by doing, using your hands for service, that’s what 4-H is all about. And it’s about doing it together, as a group, sharing the experience and seeing the difference it makes in our county. For many years, those kids will see this project be used by countless little ones and they will know they made a difference by helping to make it happen.”

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