4-H contributors recognized at the Royal

Rob and Julie Black of Fergus, long-time 4-H members, leaders and contributors, were recognized at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto on Nov. 8 for setting up an endowment fund for the Ontario 4-H Foundation.

Both Rob and Julie joined 4-H when they were 12 years old and have contributed to the organization in a number of ways.

Rob has been involved in 4-H for over 40 years, starting as a beef club member in Wellington County. He then worked as a leader, a coordinator, the executive director of 4-H Ontario and board member for the Canadian 4-H Council.  

Julie was part of 16 different clubs as a 4-H member and was a leader in Perth County. Their four children have also been members of the 4-H club.

Rob and Julie wanted to put the endowment fund in place so that the program can live on after they pass.

“We put it in place because of the significant value and impact that the program has had on our lives and … to ensure that the program was still around for our grandchildren and others,” said Rob.

As part of the policy, Rob said he wants some of the money go toward a communication skills program, such as public speaking.

“There will be a sum of money that we’ve asked to go toward some sort of communications program or project or activity … because that’s so important,” he said.

“As part of the program here in Ontario, you do have to public speak, whether it is thanking a public speaker or whether it’s introducing someone or chairing a meeting. Young people need that skill, you use it every day and so we want to see something that supports that,” he added.

4-H has created lasting memories for both of the Blacks. For Julie, it was a family affair where her sister, brother and mother all took part in the program, she said.

Rob, meanwhile, gained  a lifelong friend. While participating in a travel connections Canadian exchange, he went to Alberta in 1978 and his exchange partner came to Ontario in 1979.

“Since that time we’ve been getting together over 40 times. Unfortunately he has passed away just in the last couple of years and I was honoured to do his eulogy. He was my best man, I was his best man,” he said.  

“This program means so much to us because of things like that. It’s the connections, it’s the networks, it’s the friendships, it’s the learning, it’s the life skills … that go so far.”

Rob said he owes his career to the 4-H program, so setting up the endowment fund made sense for him and Julie.

“I wouldn’t be doing the job I do today if it wasn’t for 4-H,” said Rob.