4-H is a year-round commitment for Alta. leader

Dorothy Carlson keeps busy both on and off her cattle farm at Cherhill, Alta., volunteering in 4-H and her community.  |  Karen Morrison photo

CHERHILL, Alta. — Dorothy Carlson is certain neighbours know when she is making her sticky cinnamon buns because they drop by her Cherhill, Alta., farm.

She is also well known in her community for her longtime service to 4-H locally and in the district, having served as the president of the regional 4-H council for two terms.

“The guys will tell you I’m never home,” said Carlson.

She and her husband, Mark, have a 400 head commercial cow-calf operation and grow feed on their 11 quarter farm, which once also included 2,000 hogs. Mark’s father, Art Carlson, was one of the founding leaders in the original Cherhill 4-H Beef Club.

Carlson got into 4-H by helping out the Cherhill 4-H Multi Club when her sons, now grown and living in the region, were involved.

“Nicholas was 10 when he joined. Next year, I became leader and I’m still there.”

Long after they had left the club, she carried on as a leader and regional 4-H representative, watching two groups of youth who started at age nine graduate under her tutelage.

“It’s the kids. I enjoy them. I’ll stay on as long as they want me to.”

Carlson praised the program for making “very strong, well minded adults.

“They have a sense of knowing what they want, are not scared to volunteer or help out. They have skills a lot of kids should have.”

Carlson recalled her son receiving praise for a presentation at school.

“‘You’ve done this before and it shows’,” she recalled the teacher saying.

Like other leaders, she struggles to retain teen members, a pattern seen in many sports and activities.

“There’s so much sport, jobs in the outside world pulling them away and they see 4-H as so much work,” said Carlson.

She doesn’t think a monthly meeting should be a burden to members, noting how much a club has to offer in teaching life skills while also having fun.

Carlson saw her service on 4-H boards as helping the grassroots program.

“We have to think about what do members want to see,” said Carlson, who hopes to one day take a 4-H livestock judging team to Denver, Colorado.

Beyond 4-H, she enjoys baking and quilting, is active with the local community association hall and has contributed her time to school graduation committees in the past. In October, her thoughts were on planning the Christmas in November craft fair in Cherhill.

For her contributions to 4-H and her community, Carlson was inducted into the Alberta 4-H Hall of Fame in 2015.

Local parent Michelle Haltiner, who regularly helps Carlson with club work, noted her ability to get people motivated.

“Dorothy can get a lot of people to do a lot of things without them knowing they’re actually doing it,” she said.

She credits Carlson for helping turn around her shy son during his time in 4-H.

“He’s now 20 and can talk to anybody anytime,” Haltiner said.

Haltiner said being a general leader is a big job to take on.

“It’s a tough job. I don’t think I’d ever want it,” she said, citing the co-ordination of projects and online registrations.

“Her job as leader never ends, it’s 24 hour a day, sometimes 365 days a year,” said Haltiner, citing summer events that include camps and livestock shows.

“She’s a kind, caring woman who gives a lot of herself to every kid in the club. She does it out of the kindness of her heart because she wants to see every child succeed,” she said.

Haltiner said Carlson makes sure members respect one another and do not ridicule or bully others.

“If Dorothy was not there, the club would not be what it is.”

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