Iroquois County Family Wins State 4-H Spirit Award - U of I Extension

News Release

Iroquois County Family Wins State 4-H Spirit Award

This article was originally published on August 20, 2018 and expired on September 30, 2018. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Yvonne and William Behrends’ 4-H Story began in Milks Grove Township, a township without a town, tucked in a remote corner of Iroquois County. Despite never being members themselves, they gave 4-H a chance by enrolling their eldest child; in time, they would sign up all seven of their children for clubs in Iroquois County, and Yvonne would serve as a club leader for 15 years.

This year, to celebrate Yvonne, William, and their family’s involvement in 4-H, the family was bestowed the state 4-H Family Spirit Award. According to the Illinois 4-H Foundation, who distributes the award, this award recognizes an Illinois family who “has substantially benefited from and who continues to advocate for the Illinois 4-H program over multiple generations.” The Behrends family accepted the award on August 14 during a special ceremony at the Illinois State Fair.

Sharlene Finegan, one of Yvonne and William’s children and the person who organized the nomination for the award, expressed the influence that 4-H had in their family over the years, “We’re a big 4-H family—it’s had a lot of influence on all of us in a positive way. By submitting this award, we were doing so to honor our parents, who had been 4-H supporters for over 50 years.”

While growing up, the Behrends children’s summers revolved around 4-H, from completing projects to going to the fair as a family vacation. Everyone chipped in to help complete projects, deepening their family roots in the process.

71 years and five generations later, involvement in 4-H still fills the lives of the Behrends family—at least one descendant of Yvonne and William has been enrolled in 4-H every year since 1947. Collectively, members of the Behrends family have experienced 545 4-H membership years, attended 95 years of 4-H camp, shown 153 projects at the state fair, and completed 389 years volunteer service. Fourteen family members have served as club leaders, including Yvonne and William’s grandson and his wife, who restarted a club back in the cornfields of Milks Grove where it all began.

Finegan sees the 4-H tradition continuing in the Behrends family on a daily basis. “We still have a lot of youngsters involved in the program, and it’s going strong for the majority of them,” stated Finegan as she expressed her gratitude to her parents for signing up their seven children many years ago. She continued, “In 4-H, you learn so many things in a variety of ways. You learn skills that last a lifetime.”

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you or your child need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please contact the Extension Office in Onarga at 815.268.4051


Source: Melissa Ann Steiner Kuhl, Publicity and Promotion Specialist,

Pull date: September 30, 2018