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FOREST CITY | Laughter filled the Forest City YMCA recreation room as children used glue, yarn and balloons to complete a pumpkin craft.

The craft was part of the Tree Town Trailblazers 4-H Club meeting Monday, Oct. 16.

“We’re trying to get more kids involved in 4-H,” said Keniesa Branstad, 4-H leader of the Tree Town Trailblazers.

The Tree Town Trailblazers, which was created in May, is the newest 4-H club in Winnebago County. It is now one of four traditional clubs offered to students from fourth to 12th grade in the county.

“That’s really good to see in a county our size,” said Lauren Helgeson, Winnebago County Extension youth coordinator.

4 H is a youth development organization that serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices, according to the organization’s website.

In Iowa, more than 100,000 youth participate in 4-H programming, such as afterschool, community clubs and camping, each year.

Branstad, who has daughters in fourth and seventh grade this year, said the club was started to accommodate Forest City children interested in 4-H since there wasn’t one that met in the city.

The Forest Everreadies 4-H Club meets in Leland; the Logan Loganeers 4-H Club meets in Lake Mills; and the Grant Gleaners 4-H Club meets in Buffalo Center.

“[My daughters] enjoy learning about all sorts of different stuff. They enjoy the friends they’ve made,” Branstad said. “It’s a wonderful program for kids, 4-H is.”

However, there are seasonal specialty clubs that meet in the city.

Currently, there are two Lego 4-H clubs that meet at the Forest City YMCA throughout the fall, Helgeson said.

Branstad said the Tree Town Trailblazers have about 12 members after six months, but she believes it’ll grow.

“We’re still growing, but I think we’re well on our way of getting there,” she said.

Cindy Dontje of Forest City has two children: Jenna, a fourth-grader; and Nick, a fifth-grader, participating in the club.

“I’m originally from Buffalo Center, so I grew up in Winnebago County 4-H and had a lot of great experiences and I hope they can have some, too,” she said.

Her daughter, Jenna, said she’s looking forward to showing animals at the fair next summer, including a horse named Jesse that her grandfather owns.

Kali Johnson, 12, said this is her first year participating in 4-H thanks to the creation of the new club, and she’s enjoying the activities and food.

Sixth-grader Grant Wooge said this is his third year involved in 4-H, and his favorite part about being involved in the program is “everything.”

In the past, he’s shown a heifer at the fair, and he may show horses and a rabbit this year.

“[4-H] is really fun, and you’d enjoying seeing all the animals and project,” Wooge said about others joining.

The Tree Town Trailblazers meet at 6:30 p.m. the third Monday of each month at the Forest City YMCA, 916 W. I St. The next meeting is Nov. 20.

For questions, call Keniesa Branstad at 641-596-0011.

Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.



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