January Volunteer Spotlight-Mary Engebreth

Jan 31, 2017

Mary Engebreth has been a 4-H volunteer for over 45 years. When her family moved to Sonoma her older boys raised goats and sheep she was swept into animal projects, not her area of expertise. So, she lead sewing, macrame, beginning boys, bicycle, and many other assorted projects. As the younger boys entered 4-H they chose swine and beef projects. One of her sons joined the camp staff and Mary went along. She was able to share her interest in wildlife and outdoor activities with the staffers so they could have nature education programs for the campers. It also lead to her serving on the Las Posadas Camp Board when Sonoma County returned to using that site for its summer programs. 

In her early years in Sonoma County, Mary was heavily influenced by Shirley Dempel. Shirley was great at inviting people to get involved and then making sure they were suitably placed and happy. That lead to serving on the County Council and even two terms as president. One year she was the All Star advisor, and also she was fortunate to serve as the State Diamond Star advisor. She was privileged to attend National 4-H Congress in Chicago as the Keith Barnes Award winner, which meant that she chaperoned 37 CA State 4-H record book winners as they joined with other state winners in their projects to share experiences and be honored. She was chosen to be the adult chaperone for the National 4-H Conference team in the mid-90s.

In her adventures outside the county Mary served in many offices on the Sectional Council, including president. She helped initiate CAL Conference and served as one of the advisors for many years. The final State 4-H Leaders' Forum was held in Santa Rosa in November, with Mary as the chair. One of her most meaningful memories occurred in the 1990s when Ruth Brinker asked to meet with some Sonoma County 4-Hers. Ruth was the founder of Open Hand, an organization in San Francisco that was founded at the height of the AIDS epidemic to provide meals and medical care to those who were in great need. She theorized that a 4-H child raising an animal for the fair could just raise a second one and donate it to their cause. However naive her thinking she presented it the assembled group. They agreed it was a fine cause and immediately became Project 4-H Lends A Hand. Families like the McMillan's, Miller's, Heartt's, Derickson's, Sanders, and many more, generously participated for over 5 years. Many hundreds of pounds of meat, fruit and vegetables were donated by Sonoma County 4-H families, as well as financial support from fund raising events. The project members received a letter of commendation from the Points of Light Foundation and a Declaration from the CA State Assembly recognizing the importance of helping the less fortunate.

Currently, Mary is the advisor for the County Wildlife Project which she has been doing for over 25 years. She is also one of the originators of the new CA 4-H Discussion Meet project. Once again a youth said, "Why can't we have Discussion Meet in 4-H?" And it just seemed so right to develop the Members' and Leaders' Guides, using the Farm Bureau's DM as a guide. She, and the state DM committee, will be sharing the materials at the Western Regional Leaders' Forum in Alberta, Canada in March. Next year when WRLF is held in CA there will be a western region contest with state winners convening in San Diego to determine the region winner. Such fun to explore possibilities.

Mary's Thoughts: The 4-H program offers many opportunities to expand personal involvement and peak new interests. You are encouraged to take advantage of them. It may mean travel' it may mean another meeting; it may mean stepping outside your comfort zone. Never stop learning and growing. It might mean that you serve on a state-wide committee, i.e. Use your knowledge and skills learned in your county Fashion Revue to further the State Fashion Revue. Your experiences and ideas are valuable so share them when you can. CA 4-H is going through major changes. Find a place to fit you and continue to be the best you can be. If we have learned anything in our volunteer adventures it is not about convenience. It is not about easy. It is not about the mundane. It is about the children. Open your heart, ask good questions, and hang on for a glorious ride.



By Jesenia Mendoza
Author - 4-H Administrative Aide/Outreach