GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — When Linda Lynch was 10 years old, she joined a local 4-H club. In fact, one of the earliest memories of 4-H for the longtime Gillette resident was attending her first Campbell County Fair.
“Parents would drop you off at 8 in the morning and pick you up at 11 at night,” said Lynch, whose family has lived in the area since 1950. “You just had to stay out of trouble.”
Even then, 4-H was wildly popular in Campbell County. Lynch guessed there were about 150 kids involved in the club when she first started.
“That was about the only thing to do,” she said. “There were some town kids, but most of them were country kids. The social event of the year was to come to the county fair.”
Lynch said that in order to spend time with her father, who was the 4-H Extension agent for the county, she needed to learn the skills it took to be a 4-H member as he worked on the family farm.
Lynch stayed with 4-H until she aged out of the club, but that didn’t end her involvement with 4-H. At age 20, she was volunteering for events, working with the kids as a club leader and sitting on various boards. This past year has marked her 50th as a 4-H volunteer.
“I’ve never not wanted to be in 4-H,” Lynch said.
In November, Campbell County 4-H hosted its annual Achievement Night and awarded Lynch with the club’s Lifetime Volunteer Award. It came as a total surprise to Lynch, who said she held back tears.
Kimberly Fry, Campbell County 4-H coordinator the University of Wyoming Extension Office, was one of Lynch’s 4-H kids.
“She’s very determined to be here,” Fry said of Lynch’s involvement. “There’s been other people involved for 50 years, but she’s unique because she’s highly active. I really think it’s just in her blood. I don’t know if she’d know what to do if she didn’t have 4-H.”
In her 50 years, Lynch has worn numerous hats within the 4-H organization. She has run the City Ranchers 4-H Club for many years and has worked to bring in educational activities outside of the usual 4-H ones for her members.
For 20 years, Lynch also ran the Junior Leaders 4-H Club. One of the club’s activities was to sell hand-squeezed lemonade to help members attend camp and participate in other activities.
Since Lynch has been involved in 4-H, she has only twice missed 4-H Camp, the annual summer retreat where she has been a chaperone for her club and cabin.
She also helped accumulate the scores for the rifle range as a volunteer and was a member of the Campbell County Fair Board.
When asked why she has continued to volunteer for so many years, the answers always go back to the club members.
“It’s mostly the people you meet and the different people,” she said. “If you could help them achieve something, that’s my favorite aspect of all of this.”
A close second, she said, are the animals.
One of her favorite things to do in 4-H is clerk the annual Cat Show so she can pet every contestant that enters.
One of her favorite animals is a dwarf hotot rabbit. Rhett Adels, one of her 4-H kids, brought two rabbits to the Extension Office on a Friday afternoon so she could pet them as she talked about her long career.
Professionally, Lynch has been doing hair for 50 years and opened her own salon, The Head Hunters, in 1981.
She would always do her grandmother’s hair when the family visited in Laramie. Lynch briefly thought about being a teacher or nurse, but had the most fun in beauty school, so she stuck to hair.
“I don’t like to clean the house, do dishes or nothing like that,” she said. “I like people.”
Adels’ grandmother is the rabbit superintendent for 4-H. His mother, Alicia Heying, was one of Lynch’s 4-H kids. Lynch’s roots go deep in Campbell County, and the generations of her reach back in 4-H is something that appeals to families.
One of Heying’s first memory of Lynch was she would do every girl’s hair before a big event.
“A lot of the clubs change, and Linda was one of the constant leaders that I knew. There was some consistency there that was already established, so it just filtered through,” Heying said.
Lynch’s club is about 45 kids strong these days. In some cases, she is working with the third generation of families dating back to when she was in her 20s.
“It’s so easy to get along with her,” Adels said.
Lynch said that as long as 4-H is fun, she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
“I know it’s not going to be another 50 years,” she said. “Maybe another 20. I’ll be 90 by then. Yeah, that’ll work.”
Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com