VOLUNTEERS ARE HEART AND SOUL OF 4-H RADIO AUCTION
By Mardi Ford
Observer Staff Writer
The hubbub of voices and ringing phones trickles down the stairway from the upper rooms where command central has been established for the weekend.
At the top of the stairs, a tall redheaded teenager with a clipboard in one hand and a pencil in the other darts past, headed toward a back office in the KCMB radio station.
"Oh, 'scuse me," he says, smiling politely, barely breaking stride.
The nonstop ringing of one phone line is briefly interrupted.
"Good morning," a pleasant voice greets the caller, "4-H radio auction. Can I help you?"
The young woman with the pleasant voice bends over the list on her desk, then raises her eyes. She searches the bustling scene.
"I need a bidder number," Josie Boyk calls out to the almost 30 bodies that clog the space.
In an instant, Camden McClelland, the tall teen with the clipboard, is at her desk. The two negotiate briefly, then Boyk's attention is back to the caller on the phone.
Boyk is one of nine people manning phone lines during this annual fundraiser for Union County's 4-H program and the 600 youths it serves.
Unlike some of the others, though, Boyk is not a 4-H leader or regular 4-H volunteer. But she thinks 4-H is a worthy cause, and she just happens to work with one of the auction's co-chair, Debbie Cornford.
Cornford jokes that she recruited Boyk knowing she would do a good job answering phone lines because she does it for a living.
What would possess Boyk to give up a Saturday morning to do something she does every day at work? She could be home catching up on sleep or outside enjoying the first sunny day after a week of gloom and drizzle?
"Debbie said she needed help," Boyk says, shrugging, "so I came to help out."
Across the room from Boyk, manning the phones is another first-time radio auction volunteer, Kathy Gover-Shaw.
After Gover-Shaw donated to the auction, she also volunteered to help any way she could during the auction. She knows firsthand the power of the 4-H program.
"I did 4-H when I was a kid," she explains, "and I can't say enough about its value and the positive impact it has."
Gover-Shaw says her toddler is already earmarked as a future 4-H'er.
In fact, Gover-Shaw says parents should involve their children in the 4-H program, believing it has a more positive and lasting impact than any other activities for youth even sports.
"4-H has everything you need to know about life," the enthusiastic young woman says. "I learned so much about ... ," she hesitates, "so much about myself. I gained self-confidence and drive. I wouldn't be where I am today if not for what I learned in 4-H."
Gover-Shaw and Boyk, says Cornford, are examples of the range of the many volunteers, who may or may not be currently involved in the program, who may or may not have children in 4-H, but make up the heart and soul of the auction.
"There are about 70 people who put this thing together," she says. "I can't say thanks enough. If it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be an auction anyway, not like this."
"This" is 70 people who seek donations, provide call backs to lucky bidders or work the auction during the weekend.
"This" is nine phone lines, seven of which were donated for the weekend by Cellular One.
This" is invading the "gracious" KCMB radio station's office space for a whole weekend and the free air time to conduct an auction.
"This" is a Web site constructed, donated and maintained by Eastern Oregon University for use each year during the auction.
"This" is a community of businesses and individuals who donate items for bid and the many, many supporters who bid on them.
"This" is a new feat of $15,905 raised, making 2004 a banner year for the auction.
"This" is an annually anticipated event that has grown from its inception with two phone lines and a chalkboard in the early 1980s. The volunteers raised $1,200 that first year.
A delighted Cornford says it is the continuing dedication of volunteers that is the heart and soul of the auction's growth and success. And what is at the heart and soul of their commitment, she says, are the kids.
Every year after the auction is over she writes thank-you letters to the volunteers, "but it never seems like enough."
"It's pretty much all I can do," she says. "I just hope when they read them they know it comes from my heart."