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Focusing on 4-Hers

Holly Brooks, the 4-H project assistant, has been on the job for a year, but has been involved in 4-H for much of her life.

It’s only once a year. Thankfully.

But in a few months Holly Brooks’ office at the Lawrence County Courthouse will be alive with the sounds of baby peeps, and not from the marshmallow kind found in Easter baskets. These will be the cacophony only real one-day-old chicks, about 500 of them, can make. All shipped in to be projects to be shown at this summer’s Lawrence County Fair.

But by day’s end, after each 4-Her collects his or her requisite 12 chicks, quiet will reign again. It’s all a part of what it means to be the 4-H Club project assistant.

Brooks, an Athens County native, has only been on the job for year, but came with an understanding of the importance of 4-H in the life of a young person. She was in 4-H herself showing quarter horses and dogs at the Athens fairs.

“I know what 4-H did for me,” she said. “It’s got me out of my comfort zone. Just like with public speaking. I did a lot of the announcing during the shows.”

Brooks jokes that she was put up on a quarter horse practically the day she was born. And working with horses has offered her its own kind of therapy.

“It gave me way more patience,” she said. “If I have a bad day, I will like to go to the barn. Even cleaning up the stall, it relieves the frustration.”

When she’s not in the Lawrence County Extension Office, Brooks can be at the barns of the Ohio Horse Park, where she teaches therapeutic riding.

In fact, she received her degree from Ohio University in specialized studies with a concentration on equine child development.

“When I was about 10, I watched a movie about it,” she said. “I know how much horses.”

Right now she works with a young boy with cerebral palsy who started the riding program a year earlier.

“When you sit on a horse, it gives your muscles the same movement as when you’re walking,” Brooks said. “He is able to walk on his own with a walker.”

As she answers the barrage of questions from today’s 4-Hers, she puts her own experience into play.

“A boy called all excited about the kinds of rabbit he could enter,” said Brooks who explained to him the difference between market animals and ones that could be a family pet.

But she is quick to point out that 4-H is more than just that hyped-up week in July. 4-H is a year-round activity that reaches beyond winning ribbons at fair week.

“It teaches responsibility and leadership,” she said. “And each club is asked to do a community service project so it teaches citizenship and giving back to the community. This work is very rewarding.”

Dates to remember:

• 4-H volunteer retreat at Canters Cave – Feb. 4 and 5

• Steer tag day: Feb. 5

• Cutoff to join 4-H – April 1

• Hog, lamb and goat tag day – April 30

• Rabbit tattoo and feeder calf tag – June 4

• Lawrence County Fair – July 9-16