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Influencing Three Generations Through 4-H

(Posted August 26, 2014)


By Ryan Métivier

It’s possible that your leader also taught your parents in 4-H, or is teaching your kids now. But what is truly remarkable is when one volunteer has led three different generations of 4-H’rs in one family.

Henry Helder, President of the Elgin 4-H Association, has been volunteering with the organization for 57 years, and among the many 4-H’rs he’s taught in the Belmont Dairy Calf Club have been three members of the Lunn family. 

Brian Lunn, his son Brad, and Brad’s son Xavier have all had Henry as a leader, with Brian being the first when Henry began leading in the 50s. Brad is friends with Henry’s son and joined the club next, then leading with Henry for a short time. Third generation Xavier is brand new to 4-H, having just started this year at age nine.

“Henry is very enthusiastic about 4-H. Even when I was there he was always up for meetings,” says Brian Lunn. “He’s constantly upbeat all the time and was always there for you if you needed him.”

Helder laughs when asked how it feels to have had such a big part in the Lunn’s 4-H experience. 

“It makes you feel old,” he says. “But I enjoy the Lunn family. I’ve always enjoyed working with young people and I still enjoy it.”

After coming to Canada from Holland in 1949, Helder became involved in 4-H at the age of 16 in the Belmont Dairy Calf Club. Between that and a Hay/Pasture Club, he was involved for as long as possible until graduation. In 1957, one year after his 4-H graduation, the leader of the Dairy Club resigned, and the call came for Helder to take his spot. He’s been leading the club ever since. 

“I guess I enjoy working with people,” he says. “It’s better to be busy than sitting around in a chair and doing nothing.”

One of the things he’s seen change for the better over the years is the increased involvement of leaders in the clubs.

“If you just stand on the sideline and let somebody else do it, you don’t learn much. But if you have to get involved yourself and do something it’s upbuilding for yourself too.” 

Helder lists the ability to judge and to give reasons for why you do something as two of the big things he learned in 4-H. And also a little bit of determination—given by his story about his first judging competition.

“The first year I was in the county judging competition I think there were 98 or 112 people in it and I finished dead last,” he says. “So I couldn’t go any lower. I stayed in it until I got on top. You learn to do by doing and I think that’s one of the things 4-H taught me.”

But it also helped him with his speaking skills and ability to meet people, which benefitted him in his career outside of 4-H as well. 

“If you can converse in front of people it definitely helps you in anything.”

Helder was also a member of the Junior Farmers, sold dairy farm equipment for 33 years, farmed at home and then with his brother, coached soccer for almost 20 years, as well as minor hockey, while also remaining very involved in his church. At 43 he got married and later had two boys, both of whom participated in the 4-H program.

Recently, Helder was recognized in 4-H for his longstanding service with the Syngenta 4-H Ontario Arbor Award in 2009. He also received his 55 year volunteer seal in January of 2013. 

“He has shown remarkable enthusiasm for dairy 4-H,” says Brad Lunn. “Everyone who has been through Elgin County 4-H knows Henry Helder and how committed he is.”

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