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People loading produce into a wagon.
Volunteers pack up fresh fruits and vegetables for donation to a local food pantry following 4-H exhibit judging day at the Tulsa State Fair. (Photo by OSU Agriculture)

Volunteers critical to OSU Extension mission

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Sr. Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 |

Volunteers are a vital part of any organization to accomplish the group’s goals. Oklahoma State University Extension is no exception.

Thanks to knowledgeable experts in areas including youth development, community service, agriculture, healthy living and more, these specialists share that information with Oklahoma citizens. But, to kick it up a notch, thousands of volunteers associated with various OSU Extension programs also take that information and share it with even more state residents.

This week is National Volunteer Week, so it’s a good time to recognize these groups and highlight some ways they positively impact all Oklahomans.

Oklahoma Master Gardeners and 4-H Youth Development, two OSU Extension programs, along with Oklahoma Home and Community Education, an organization that partners with OSU Extension, all have volunteers who are doing amazing things around the state.

Why do people volunteer? Jayme McTague, a 4-H volunteer leader in Pontotoc County, said her involvement in 4-H inspired her to become an adult volunteer.

“I’m a 4-H alumna, and my parents were my leaders. I had such a positive experience as a 4-H’er that I knew it was something I wanted for my own kids,” McTague said. “It’s the best organization in the country. I had so many amazing opportunities due to my involvement — winning trips to Denver and Washington, D.C., and attending State 4-H Roundup — I wanted to give my kids and other kids those same opportunities.”


Oklahoma Home and Community Education is a statewide, county-based organization whose members seek to develop leadership skills and strengthen families in their respective communities. OHCE members work with county OSU Extension educators to identify issues facing their local communities and use research-based information from specialists at OSU to help solve those problems.

Suzette Barta, community engagement coordinator for OSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences – Extension, Engagement and Continuing Education, said OHCE members are driven to volunteer.

“People are motivated to action because they feel a desire within themselves to do something. This is called internal motivation,” Barta said. “We do things within our communities, our counties and the state because we know they make a difference to the residents. We’re also motivated by friendship, affiliation, and yes, even fun.”

With 2,720 OHCE members across the state, they committed more than 106,000 hours of volunteer service in their communities, valued at nearly $3.2 million. These volunteers raised over $603,000 last year for a variety of projects, including community improvement and educational scholarships.

Master Gardeners

In 2022, the Extension Master Gardeners trained 323 new volunteers to bring their total statewide volunteer numbers to 1,049 from 23 counties, with almost 76,000 hours of volunteer service.

David Hillock, OSU Extension consumer horticulturist and statewide Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program coordinator, said the interest in environment and home gardening continues to grow every year, prompting numerous gardening and landscape questions.

“The service from the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program has proven to be a highly popular means of extending the knowledge of OSU Extension to the residents of Oklahoma,” Hillock said. “These volunteers have been involved in workshops, demonstration gardens, fairs, home and garden shows, farmers markets and elementary school programs, to name a few.”

This group has also donated more than 5,850 pounds of produce to local food pantries/kitchens, shelters and other organizations. This is a significant increase from the year before due to a small farm the Tulsa County Master Gardeners created to serve as a hands-on teaching tool and to help serve residents of Tulsa County.

Oklahoma 4-H

The Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program, which is available in all 77 counties, relies on its volunteers to carry out the mission of helping Oklahoma youth, families and communities reach their full potential. 4-H is the youth segment of OSU Extension and provides hands-on learning and leadership opportunities in more than 60 project areas for club members.

The program has 1,051 certified volunteers and many more episodic volunteers who serve as club leaders, project leaders and general volunteers, said Karla Knoepfli, OSU Extension associate specialist in the state 4-H office.

“While we have 4-H educators in all counties, our volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” Knoepfli said. “Our volunteers help us foster healthy youth-adult partnerships and positive youth development. 4-H values service to others and our volunteers play a key role modeling that behavior for our 4-H members. Through their willingness to share their time and talents, they continue to make the best better.”

National Volunteer Week, established in 1974, is celebrated annually in April and places a spotlight on inspiring individuals whose invaluable seeds of kindness through volunteering are bettering their communities and beyond.

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