Adult volunteers needed for 4-H program


By Jim Smith
SUN Columnist

Help local youth by volunteering with Archuleta County 4-H.

Typical volunteers donate two hours of their time a month, beginning in January and work through the summer until the county fair in August. However, this is very flexible: You donate what time you have and we work around your schedule.

The Extension Office is always available for your meetings, 4-H helps offset the cost of any materials, and youngsters are required to purchase any supplies for their projects.

We are currently looking for leaders in a few specific areas, projects that we have offered in the past, but are not limited to: Robotics, Rocketry, Entomology, Leathercraft, Electricity and GPS/GIS.

What do you enjoy?

What is required of a volunteer?

All volunteers are required to pass a background check with CSU. This, of course, is in place for the safety of all youth. A short leaders training, available online, is also given to each new leader. Volunteers have access to office supplies and support of office staff.

What is 4-H?

For more than 100 years, 4-H has stood behind the idea that youth are the single strongest catalyst for change. What began as a way to give rural youth new agricultural skills, today has grown into a global organization that teaches kids life skills.

4-H is dedicated to positive youth development and helping youth step up to the challenges in a complex and changing world. 4-H is dedicated to helping cultivate the next generation of leaders and tackling the nation’s top challenges such as the shortage of skilled professionals, maintaining our global competitiveness, encouraging civic involvement and becoming a healthier society.

How do we maintain the 4-H program?

More than 500,000 volunteers in 71 countries are active in 4-H and developing positive youth relationships with members ranging in age from 5-19. Volunteers are the heart of the 4-H program; without knowledgeable, caring, responsible adults, youth cannot learn, engage, give back or succeed. This is where you come in.

What is a 4-H project?

In the 2011-2012 4-H year, Archuleta County had seven 4-H Clubs, consisting of 140 youth. These youth participated in 16 projects, such as Rocketry, Scrapbooking, Clothing Construction, Shooting Sports, Veterinary Science, Livestock and Photography. Making these youth successful in their projects were 27 leaders who guided, listened, taught and cared. Many of these leaders have been involved for more than 10 years and continue to come back year after year because they believe in what they do.

Many people think that 4-H is all about livestock. Livestock is a huge part of 4-H, don’t get me wrong. It is the basis of which 4-H began 100 years ago. Many of our youth are not capable of housing and caring for any type of livestock animal. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be a part of the same mentoring and caring atmosphere 4-H has to offer. The 16 projects we offer barely scratch the surface that 4-H has to offer.

Projects exist because we have volunteers willing to teach. There is a project for any hobby that you can think of. Cycling, Hiking, Leathercraft, Robotics, Wildlife, Gardening, Power of Wind, GPS, Visual Arts and Woodworking are examples of projects not offered in Archuleta County. These are not offered because we don’t have volunteers to lead them. But the interest is there; kids are always looking for new things to do.

The best part of volunteering with 4-H is that the research is done for you. Colorado State University, which is Colorado’s land-grant University, supplies all curriculum for every project. That’s right, the work is done for you. Activities, research, outlines and final projects are at your disposal. Volunteers are there to teach, mentor, guide and apply knowledge in a real world setting. Groups tend to be small in projects, anywhere from five-10 kids. But limits can be placed, depending on the safety aspect of the project or what the leader is comfortable with.

How do you volunteer in Archuleta County?

If you are interested in volunteering your time and sharing your passion with our wonderful 4-H youth, contact Becky Jacobson at the CSU Extension Office. The CSU Extension Office is located at 344 U.S. 84, and can be reached at 264-5931. We would love to have you join our team of wonderful volunteers and lead our amazing youth.

Holiday poison prevention 

Holidays can be fun, but they can be hazardous for children and pets.

Take a moment to read some safety tips and precautions concerning plants, decorations and holiday guests to keep your family safe.

Holiday plants

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.): This exotic plant from tropical America and Africa has brilliant-colored flowers and green strap-shaped leaves. A stomach ache , nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can occur if the plant is eaten.

Christmas cactus: This is an old favorite during the holiday season and often sold as Zygocactus truncatus. The arching, drooping branches are made up of flattened, scallop-edged, smooth, bright green, spineless joints. Rosy purplish, red flowers appear at Christmas time. This plant is considered non-toxic.

Christmas trees: Most are varieties of pine or spruce and are not poisonous. Eating the bark can cause a stomach ache. The sap may cause an itchy skin rash. The needles can cause choking, but are non-toxic. Sharp needles can cause skin irritation and bleeding.

Holly berries (Ilex spp.): The bright red berries of this plant are especially attractive to small children. Nibbling on 1 or 2 berries will not cause any symptoms. Swallowing more, however, can result in nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea and a feeling of extreme tiredness.

Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum): Swallowing this ornamental plant can result in vomiting, redness of the skin, drowsiness or restlessness, and hallucinations. This plant has bright orange and dark red berries. In rare cases seizures may occur.

Mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.): All parts of the plant contain toxic substances and if eaten can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. One to two berries or leaves eaten by a child will NOT result in serious harm. As a precaution when hanging mistletoe in your home, place it in a piece of netting or a plastic sandwich bag. This will help avoid young children or pets from eating the leaves and berries that drop to the ground.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia spp.): Eating many leaves may cause mild stomach upset. The sap from the plant may cause skin rash and should be washed off with soap and water. Contrary to earlier beliefs, poinsettias are safe in the home during the holidays.

Pyracantha (Pyracantha spp.): This plant is often used in holiday centerpiece decorations because of its showy ornamental appearance. The pyracantha plant is a thorny bush that belongs to the rose family. It has oblong, shiny leaves, white flowers and a lot of berries during the winter season. If large amounts of berries are eaten, a stomach ache may result, however, most experts say it is safe for decorating use during the holidays.

Rosary Pea or the Jequirity Bean (Abrus precatorius): The jequirity bean, commonly used in Mexico, is often used in jewelry making because of its dark red color and black tipped end. In India and Africa the plant has been used as both a human and an animal poison. There is no harm if the beans are swallowed whole, but can be life-threatening if they are chewed prior to swallowing. Vomiting and stomach ache occurs within a few hours after swallowing. This is followed by bloody diarrhea.

Holiday decorations

Angel hair: Angel hair is finely spun glass, which can be irritating to the skin, eyes and the throat if swallowed. Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating.

Bubble lights: Bubble lights contain a small amount of methylene chloride, which is also found in paint removers. Nibbling on an intact light or one “opened” light may cause mild skin or mouth irritation only.

Candles: Candles consist of wax and synthetic materials, which are non-toxic. Small amounts of non-poisonous colors and scents are added, however, small chunks pose a choking hazard to small children. Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other plants or trees. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not fall.

Christmas tree ornaments: Ornaments can be made of glass, thin metal, styrofoam or wood. If a child swallows a piece of an ornament, it could cause choking and/or blockage in the intestines. Antique or foreign-made ornaments may be decorated with lead-based paint, however, lead toxicity is unlikely from small, onetime occurrence.

Christmas tree preservatives: Commercial Christmas tree preservatives usually contain a concentrated sugar solution and are considered non-toxic. Homemade solutions containing aspirin or bleach can be potentially harmful if a large amount is swallowed.

Fireplace color crystals: These color crystals are attractive to children and can look like candy. They contain powders of heavy metal salts such as copper, selenium, arsenic and antimony. If swallowed, they can be very irritating to the mouth and stomach. They can also cause burns in the mouth and throat. If large amounts are swallowed, it may result in heavy metal poisoning.

Gift wrap: Most wrapping paper and ribbons are non-toxic, but foil and colored gift wrap may contain lead. Do not let babies chew on these papers.

Glitter or sparkle: Non-toxic.

Icicles or tinsel: These may cause choking or obstruction, especially in cats or small dogs. Since they may contain lead and tin, they may be toxic with repeated ingestion.

Snow scene globes: Snow scenes are plastic globes filled with water or glycerin. When shaken, snow appears to fall upon a Christmas scene. The “snow” is calcium carbonate, which is non-toxic. Sometimes the water may be contaminated with bacteria and food poisoning may result. The symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Snow sprays: Many snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride. This solvent can be harmful when inhaled. Briefly inhaling the spray in a small, poorly ventilated room may result in nausea, lightheadedness and headache. Longer or more concentrated exposures can be more serious. Carefully follow container directions. Be sure to have the room well ventilated when you spray. Once dry, the snow particles are non-toxic.

Holiday guests

Alcohol: Alcohol poisoning is common in children year-round. The incidence increases during the holiday season when they have access to leftover cocktails. Children often imitate adults and they will drink partially filled glasses regardless of the contents. Always empty beverage glasses and place them out of the reach of curious kids. Children are much more sensitive to alcohol than adults. Alcohol is found in beer, wine and distilled liquor, such as vodka, whiskey, rum or bourbon. It is also in perfumes, aftershave lotions and mouthwashes. Vanilla and almond extracts also have high alcohol content. Make sure to keep all of these products out of the reach of children.

Disc batteries: These flat-shaped, coin-like batteries are commonly used in watches, cameras, hearing aids, games and calculators. They may, if swallowed, stick in the throat or stomach, causing serious burns as the chemical leaks out. Also, children may insert these small objects into their ears or nose.

Cigarettes and cigars: Cigarettes and cigars contain enough nicotine to be dangerous to children. Children are known to eat whole cigarettes, cigars and the “butts.” Ingestion can result in vomiting, sweating and seizures. Empty all ashtrays at the end of the evening. Keep all ashtrays out of reach of children.

Medicines: Parents, grandparents and babysitters should be extra cautious during the holidays. Visitors often leave medicines on a nightstand or in the bathroom, making them easily accessible to children. Medications given to seniors often do not have child-resistant closures, allowing children to open them with very little difficulty. Also, purses of visitors may contain medicines and other potentially dangerous items. Remember that the homes of friends and relatives may not be poison-proof, particularly if children do not usually live there. Consider offering guests a locking cabinet for their medicine.

If you suspect a poisoning, call the Rocky Mountain Poison Center anytime day or night at (800) 222-1222.


Dec. 21 — 4-H Club Wolf Creek Wonders meeting, 2 p.m.

Dec. 24-Jan. 2 — CSU Extension Office is closed.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.