MANHATTAN, Kan. – There have been many changes in 4-H during the last 60 years, but one thing is the same; Mildred Waldren is volunteering her time to help Greeley County 4-H’ers. Stories of Waldren’s mentoring are being told by past Greeley County 4-H members as they become parents and grandparents to another generation of 4-H’ers. Even at the age of 86, her values, character and attitude make her an influential role model for youth, their parents and other volunteers.
“As a 4-H member myself in the 1960s and 1970s, I thought Mildred Waldren started 4-H,” said Dee Anna Schneider, “When I became a project leader, a 4-H parent and then a club leader, Mildred was there to guide me.”
Waldren, of Tribune, Kan., proudly represents Kansas 4-H as the 2013 North Central Region 4-H Salute to Excellence Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer. Throughout the last six decades, Waldren has positively influenced and helped youth to reach their full potential in a variety of ways. Waldren also will receive the National 4-H Salute to Excellence Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer award, announced recently during National Volunteer Week.
Growing up, Waldren lived in a small rural community in Eastern Colorado that didn’t have active 4-H clubs, but, this didn’t stop her from becoming a passionate volunteer. She whole-heartedly believes in the power 4-H has to develop essential life skills. She raised her two sons with the same beliefs and now both of them have successful positions within the Cooperative Extension System.
Since 1950, Waldren has been a dedicated club leader of the Go-Getters 4-H Club. As a club leader, she provides guidance, leadership and positive reinforcement to members. She is a firm believer in teaching youth correct parliamentary procedure; a skill she believes all youth should learn and practice, because of its importance later in adult life.
As a Greeley County project leader for 62 years, Waldren has taught life skills to more than 620 youth, including clothing construction, visual arts, crochet and embroidery, foods, photography and wood working projects. She is known for encouraging youth to be imaginative and creative.
“One of the most valuable attributes of Mildred, is her one-to-one mentoring ability,” said Todd Schmidt, Greeley County Extension Agent. “I have had 4-H Alumni comment on how they truly treasured the individual mentoring of Mildred, whether it was learning how to sew, learning the duties of 4-H Club President, or simply learning about life. Mildred has always been a ‘straight shooter’. She tells it like it is, yet, she shows compassion, genuine interest and love for whomever she is mentoring.”
Waldren, an experienced leader on the Extension Council Executive Board, is eager to work out a budget that will keep her county’s programs. In addition to tax dollars, the 4-H Council operates mostly from funds earned each year in the county fair concession stand. Since 1980, Waldren has managed the kitchen during the fair. This annual fundraiser grosses about $4,000 to $5,000 profit per year.
She has served as the Greeley County 4-H Treasurer for 35 years and has been a member of the Greeley County 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences PDC (Program Development Committee) and the Greeley County Extension Council Board since 1968. She retired on Sept. 1, 2012 after working at the Greeley County Register of Deeds Officer for 30 years.
Mildred Waldren will be recognized by Kansas 4-H at the Emerald Circle banquet on Thursday, May 30. For being a regional winner, she will receive a plaque and $200.
“The money I receive will go towards the construction of the Greeley County 4-H Courtyard, a picnic area open for the public on the fairgrounds,” said Waldren. “It will be a nice place to sit in the shade and eat during the fair.”
She will receive $1,000 for the national award. The award will be presented at the National Galaxy Conference, with approximately 2,000 Extension educators in attendance, set for September 16-20, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Penn.