MAZON – Rita Mills was recognized this year for having spent more than half of her 82 years serving 4-H as a volunteer by being inducted into the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame.
“The Grundy County Unit of University of Illinois Extension was pleased to nominate Rita Mills of Mazon, Illinois, for the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame,” Youth Educator John Davis said. “It was a pretty easy pick this year. We looked at her whole body of work with 4-H, and she’s been active for over 50 years.”
The Illinois 4-H Foundation annually recognizes one 4-H volunteer per county for exemplary service to the Illinois 4-H program as a Hall of Fame winner.
“In 1942 or ’43, I joined 4-H in LaSalle county where I completed projects, but I’m not sure if any went to the fair,” Mills said. “In 1955, I had a leader who lived across the street from me so I put my daughter in, in Kendall County.”
When all of her children completed 4-H in Kendall County, Mills stopped participating for a while.
After her daughters, Charlene Morris and Doreen Harlow, moved to Grundy County and had children of their own, Mills found herself right back in the 4-H saddle.
“When my granddaughter joined Highland Ag at 10-years-old, I really tried to be involved,” Mills said.
Her granddaughter, Kaitlyn Harlow, said it meant a lot to the four grandchildren to have grandma at the fair.
“Not only was she there for support but she acted as a resource for us and many other 4-Hers,” Harlow said. “Her breath and depth of knowledge helped us through the fair during judging time and even after the fair when we were preparing for the state fair or even brainstorming for next year.”
Mills said she has tried to share her passion of sewing with 4-H members. A few have went to state with their projects, and that makes her proud.
She feels many of the projects, like public speaking, are important for a child’s growth because it is something they will use throughout their life. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like to see the kids get down and dirty as they show cattle, sheep, and pigs down in the 4-H fair barns.
Her grandson, Perry Harlow, said he is amazed she continued with volunteering for 4-H after her children were out “many moons ago.”
“She is always looking to members with their projects or just talk to them about how their project is going,” Perry Harlow said. “I am very proud that my grandma didn’t stop helping the 4-H community. Her age is just a number to her. That doesn’t stop her from doing of what she loves.”
This year celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the award, said Angie Barnard, director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation. All but 10 inductees were in attendance for the ceremony held Aug. 9 on the director of Agriculture’s lawn on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
“These long-time volunteers fully embody what 4-H strives to instill in youth,” Angie Barnard, director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation said in a news release. “They are caring, dedicated, generous leaders, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation is extremely proud to be able to provide this honor to each and every one of them to thank them for their service to this wonderful organization.”
The Illinois 4-H Foundation established the statewide Hall of Fame in 2004 to honor and celebrate extraordinary 4-H alumni, volunteers, and former 4-H staff. Nominations for the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame are made by University of Illinois Extension staff. Each inductee received a commemorative Hall of Fame medallion.
Mills was given her medallion Aug. 9 at the Illinois State Fair. Rita has been a fair superintendent 4-H Judge, Club Leader and Committee member.
Rita is the ninth Grundy County volunteer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Winners for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2103 winners were: Ron Wills, Andrew Krull, Terry Seggebruch, Mark Wills, Pat Carey, Tammy Halterman, Bill Chapin, and Pam Brockman, respectively.