January Volunteer of the Month: Elizabeth Ploof

By Miranda Jonswold, United Way of Northwest Vermont Volunteer Columnist

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For Elizabeth Ploof, when it comes to being involved with the UVM Extension 4-H Program, she’ll tell you it’s all in the family.

Ploof became involved with the UVM Extension 4-H Program when her oldest daughter started riding horses. Her daughter’s trainer was the horse leader for a 4-H Club who encouraged Ploof to explore all of what 4-H had to offer. Years later, Ploof serves as a volunteer 4-H project leader and co-leads as the organizational leader for the Flying Hooves 4-H Club. Her husband is also a leader, and her two daughters—16-year-old Faith and 10-year old Adeline—actively participate, all of which makes for an exceptional family bonding experience.

UVM’s 4-H Program, as with all 4-H programs across the country, focus on four areas of personal development: head, heart, hands, and health. The goal is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility, and life skills for children through hands-on activities and projects.

Ploof spends hours planning and facilitating learning experiences for youth through various project areas, including community service, food and nutrition, healthy lifestyles, shooting sports, communications, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), leadership, and poultry. As a teacher, the planning comes naturally.

“My favorite part, hands down, is the community service that we do,” Ploof said. “We’ve met so many people in our community that, as much as we’d go into it thinking that we’re enriching their lives, they’ve enriched our lives. I’ve learned so much from them.”

Spending time with senior citizens, learning to shoot rifles, organizing events like Horses for Hope, researching microplastics in Lake Champlain and presenting findings at an environmental conference, learning to raise chickens, traveling to different states (Washington D.C., Kentucky, other eastern states, to name a few) —these are just some recent projects that scratch the surface of what 4-H is all about.

“One of the big things about 4-H is that it’s the kids’ voice,” she said. “When we have a business meeting every month, they’re the ones that run it. It’s just a matter of me getting together the supplies that we need and collaborating with other people and making sure everything is in place.”

Ploof and her older daughter work closely together on several events, and both are ambassadors of the state and travel around to promote the 4-H program.

There are so many times I’ve thought, ‘I can’t believe 4-H has taken us this far as a family,’” she added.

Even though the entire Ploof family is involved with 4-H, their family now extends to all 4-H members, parents, and volunteers. There are about 30 members ranging from approximately ages six through 17.

“It’s giving members a chance to use their voice and to make a difference in their community; when they talk about life skills, that to me is key.”

As part of our mission to create a stronger Northwest Vermont, United Way of Northwest Vermont connects volunteers to community organizations and supports the ability of nonprofits to recruit, retain and recognize volunteers.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities in your community, please visit United Way’s Volunteer Connection.

Alison DeFisher