By Keri Collins Lewis
MSU Ag Communications
Two groups known for their dedication to others met recently to talk about healthy living and community service.
Students from the Mississippi State University G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for American Veterans joined the Controllers Generation II 4-H Club in Oktibbeha County for a tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces and a celebration of healthy living.
Rose Coffey Graham, 4-H club leader, said she wanted the group to celebrate Health Literacy Month in October. Because the club meets monthly, her group would not have another chance to celebrate military heroes before Veteran’s Day, so she found a way to combine the topics.
“I came up with the idea of military health literacy so our 4-H’ers could meet and honor some of our veterans. They in turn could talk about how important it is to be physically fit and make healthy choices, not just as a part of their military service but in everyday living,” Graham said. “It was also an opportunity for our young people to learn about military careers.”
Program leaders and MSU students set up stations for each branch of the military and shared the history and meanings behind the symbols and colors on the flags representing each branch.
Chance Maddox, a sophomore at MSU from Kosciusko, joined the Army in 2008 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now a sergeant in the Mississippi National Guard and participates in MSU’s ROTC unit.
“I wanted to come here tonight to talk about leadership and giving back to the community,” Maddox said. “One of the Army’s core values is selfless service, and it’s a value we’re supposed to live no matter what happens. As a veteran, I can talk about how the Army implements that value, and how I’m responsible for looking out for my soldiers’ well-being over my own.”
Harvey Jones, an alderman for the town of Maben, attended the event and praised the 4-H program for its community involvement.
“Rose is a community-minded individual who keeps the youth involved,” Jones said. “She brings fun, excitement and surprises to local events, and people catch her enthusiasm and follow her lead.”
Larry Alexander, 4-H youth development specialist, said the club is well known for its community service activities, which led to their winning the Governor’s Award this year.
“The club works on some type of community service activity at each meeting and gives back in some way every month,” Alexander said. “This past year, these 4-H’ers collected and packed items for U.S. servicemen, collected aluminum cans, rang the Salvation Army bell at Walmart, cleaned up a local park, adopted a family after a house fire, collected school supplies for local children and participated in numerous healthy lifestyle events during the year.”
Graham first started a 4-H club 25 years ago when her daughter, who is now one of the club’s adult leaders, was a child.
“That was Controllers Generation I, and now this club is full of my grandchildren, nieces and nephews, the next generation,” Graham said. “I feel that they are our future, and if we don’t teach them about serving others, who will carry it on?”
For more information about Mississippi’s 4-H Youth Development program, visit http://www.msucares.com.