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Presents vs. Presence

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Whether you begin celebrating as Halloween comes to an end or you wait until the turkey has been carved and consumed, the last months of the year are holiday time and there is so much to see and do.  As youth development specialists, 4-H agents try to find ways for children to look beyond the presents and the expectations and to see giving as more fulfilling than getting.

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Wreaths Across America is a national program with very moving, culminating events held the 2nd Saturday in December at national cemeteries far and wide.  Organizers want everyone to REMEMBER our fallen veterans, HONOR those who serve, and TEACH your children the value of freedom.  Groups identify wreath sponsors year round and then volunteers lay those wreaths on the graves of the fallen where they remain into January.

UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County 4-H has participated in this event for several years now, and it never fails to take our breath away. Whether it is the site of the wreaths laying neatly and respectfully for miles around, the ceremony honoring the POW, or the speeches from Gold Star moms, there is something that touches hearts and souls.  We take the children and we remind, we teach, and we touch. They ask questions and get answers; they learn etiquette; they show respect; and they often visit the resting places of their own family members.

In 2018, club members assisted at two different cemeteries, spreading their hands to larger service. Jolly Ranchers 4-H members laid wreaths at Florida Hills Memorial Gardens on Spring Hill Drive and Pure Country members traveled to Bushnell to participate at the Florida National Cemetery.  Leaders Tammy Fincher and Deanna Naugler encourage their families to spend the morning remembering and honoring, paying tribute to those who gave all, and instilling in children the idea that holidays are not only about getting presents but being a presence in your community.

There are many ways to perform community service, especially around the holidays. The Wreaths Across America program can be a year round service for youth.  Young leaders can set up events or booths to share the mission of WAA and collect wreath sponsorships. This can be a fundraiser ($5 to the non-profit) or strictly service ($5 goes towards the next wreath).  The more organizations sharing the mission, the more wreaths sponsored, the more graves covered, the more fallen honored.

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Visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org or contact UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Agent Nancy Moores to learn more about getting your youth involved.

4-H is for youth ages 5-18. Learn more at http://florida4h.org

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