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Hall of Famer: Schmidt joins ranks of top 4-H volunteers in Idaho

— You could say that 4-H is in Mary Schmidt’s blood. Recently, that bloodline became a little stronger as Schmidt was inducted into the Idaho 4-H Hall of Fame and was honored at a fall event in Lewiston. She was nominated by Idaho County 4-H Program Director Susie Heckman.


Mary Schmidt

Growing up in the Kamiah area, Schmidt was herself a 4-H member.

“My first project was knitting and included making slippers and a potholder in fourth grade,” she said. “I also participated in cooking, cake decorating and sewing projects.”

She started working with the 4-H Program as a University of Idaho Extension educator in 1982. She worked for 21 years with the 4-H/Youth Development programs, primarily focusing on after-school, home economics and specialty projects. Following her direct work in youth development, she worked in the area of rural community development as the state Horizons director.

“4-H is a wonderful program that has huge benefits for our kids, leaders and communities,” Schmidt said. “The heart of the program is actually the volunteer leaders that work to support and teach these youth. 4-H truly changes people’s lives. I was fortunate to get to help guide and support those leaders.”

Schmidt said she has many great memories of 4-H camp, revamping fair buildings, writing the Making the Most of Me project and helping to create the 4-H Ambassador program.

“When I first became an extension educator, I worked with Carl Crabtree to initiate the ‘Blue Ribbon Kids,’ not just ‘Blue Ribbon Projects’ philosophy that is still maintained today throughout the program,” she explained. “This summarized an overall attitude that 4-H is about developing youth. In the competitive arena of the fair, it is easy to lose sight of the real purpose of 4-H. We made sure that leaders, families and kids kept the youth development component in the forefront.”

Schmidt said she also feels “really good about getting to help the communities of Grangeville, Cottonwood, Riggins, Kamiah, Kooskia and Elk City start after-school, youth development programs for their communities.”

“Getting to work with community members on creating a unique program that would fit their needs and then focus on long-term sustainability was really important,” Schmidt stated. “Grant monies are good to ‘start’ something, but creating sustainability plans for when grants run out is key. For many communities this involved creating non-profit organizations to ensure continuation.”

Schmidt has watched 4-H change and grow throughout the years, as well, she said.

“4-H has evolved to engage youth and families in what people might think of as non-traditional – such as the after-school programs, ambassador programs and day camps,” she said. “The heart of 4-H, however, is still the volunteer leaders who take time out of their busy days to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Schmidt has been active in a variety of community programs throughout the years including serving on the Kids Klub and Syringa Hospital board, Grangeville Boosters and most recently helping to create the Grangeville Community Foundation.

She currently serves as the CEO of external ministries at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood. She and her husband, Jim, have two grown children.


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