A day of giving back for 300 4-H teens from across Florida


4-H volunteer Allison Cone, 16, of Greenville, works in Wilmot Gardens on the University of Florida campus Wednesday, August 1, 2012. Several 4-H groups are visiting various locations around Gainesville to do community service as part of a weeklong Florida 4-H Congress.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 5:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 5:56 p.m.

Sweat dripped from Quentin Carter's brow as he laid down chunks of pine straw over a piece of cardboard on the ground to stymie weeds.

The 19-year-old 4-H member grew up on a farm in Gulf County, so Wednesday's community service at the University of Florida's Wilmot Gardens was just another day at the office.

"I love to help people," Carter said.

Almost 300 teens gathered at the University of Florida this week for the annual Florida 4-H Congress, which wrapped up Wednesday with a day of service.

About 35 volunteers were at Wilmot Gardens, with some mulching and some hammering at slabs of granite to smooth out the surface of a soon-to-be park bench.

Linda Luecking, project coordinator for the gardens, said the project marked the third year in a row that 4-H volunteers have worked at the gardens.

"The great thing about getting 4-H students is that they are used to working," Luecking said.

Another group worked at the Ronald McDonald House, organizing the food pantry, weeding and steam-cleaning the floors.

Theresa Drew, house manager, said the volunteers were eager to work and attentive.

"No cellphones, which is really a treat," Drew said.

She noted that some of the volunteers who live in Alachua County showed interest in coming back to help out on their own.

Nineteen-year 4-H agent Marcus Boston, 45, of Leon County, supervised the group hammering the granite at Wilmot Gardens, saying that of the 4 H's — head, heart, hands and health — the day gave members a chance to get their hands dirty.

"It's seeing them experience a feeling of joy from helping an organization and making a difference," he said.

Erin Barveau, 17, of Port St. Lucie, said she enjoys 4-H because it encourages its members to give back to the community in a variety of ways.

"It's very flexible," Barveau said. "You don't have to be a livestock exhibitor."

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