Debbie Clements honored by 4-H

OKEECHOBEE — It all started with a Holstein calf named Twinkle.

Twinkle was not the biggest or best calf in the barn, but the little girl would not be swayed as she insisted she wanted the little black and white bovine for her very first 4-H project.

Months later, Twinkle, raised with love and care, came home from the county fair with a white ribbon, the lowest ranking. But over the next 20 years she produced calves that helped pay for the little girl’s college education. And the little girl, who went on to become a county extension agent, often said as an agent she was happier to have a blue ribbon 4-Her with a white ribbon animal than a white ribbon 4-Her with a blue ribbon animal.

On Sept. 22, Okeechobee County 4-H honored Debbie Clements, who retired May 1 from her post as the Okeechobee County 4-H Extension Agent, with the Friend of 4-H Award. She had been the county 4-H agent since 1995.

Paula Daniel (left) presented Debbie Clements (right) with the Friend of 4-H Award at the Sept. 22 4-H awards banquet at Okeechobee High School.

“When members and volunteers were asked why they chose Mrs. Debbie as their Okeechobee County Friend of 4-H, the responses were magnanimous,” said Paula Daniel, the new Okeechobee County 4-H Extension Agent.

Comments from the nominations included:

• “Mrs. Debbie has given years of selfless dedication to our youth.

• “She was an amazing 4-H agent and taught many what it is all about.

• “She has been the pillar of 4-H for many years. Her dedication and love for 4-H has been seen by the community and all of the 4-H leaders and volunteers.”

• “She always had time to listen and treated everyone fairly.”

“All of these comments about one individual make it a true blessing to have had Mrs. Debbie as part of Okeechobee County 4-H, from her past contributions to the ones that live on inside each one of us, because she has touched and continues to touch a part of everyone’s heart. We have gained, and 4-H has gained a friend in 4-H because of Mrs. Debbie. 4-H is a better place because of those that she has spoken to, helped or guided during her career at our 4-H agent,” Mrs. Daniel said.

“4-H has been something that has been very important to me since I was 10 years old,” said Mrs. Clements. She said her mother was a 4-H volunteer, and she eagerly awaited her 10th birthday (the minimum age limit at the time) to join 4-H.

Her first 4-H calf was her birthday present.

“Twinkle started my opportunities in 4-H,” she said. “She was a white ribbon heifer from the old McArthur Farm in Palm Beach County. Twinkle taught me a lot. She lived about 20 years and had a lot of Holstein calves that helped pay for my college.

“4-H gave me opportunities a little girl from Belle Glade would never have otherwise had,” she said.

“I learned people were important,” Mrs. Clements said. “You wanted to do your best because you wanted them to be proud of you.”

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