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Fostering community pride

Christina Kuismi (right) presents the 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award to Kris Massmann of Osakis. (Contributed)1 / 3
Kris Massmann of Osakis (middle) put together Math Mat learning games as a 4-H project with her two children, Kendra, 13 and Shane, 16. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press)2 / 3
Kris Massmann of Osakis, shown with the family goat, Lucky, was recently honored with the 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press)3 / 3

Community pride. Leadership. Responsibility. Patience. Showmanship. Dedication.

According to Kris Massmann, these are just a few of things kids learn from being involved in 4-H.

"When most people think about 4-H, they automatically think animals at the fair, but 4-H is more than the animals," said Massmann, of Osakis, who was recently honored with the 2016 Douglas County 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award.

The 4-H adult volunteer award recognizes adults who have been active in the 4-H program.

To say that Massmann has been active would be an understatement.

Massmann is currently the leader of the Liberty Livewires 4-H Club of Nelson and has been for the past five years. And her children, David, 25; Shane, 16; and Kendra, 13, have been involved in 4-H for numerous years, which means she also has been involved for numerous years. She guessed it's been at least 16 years.

For the past four years, Massmann also has coached the 4-H archery club, which meets every Wednesday June through September. Her son, Shane, is the youth coach for archery.

There are roughly 32 kids involved in the Liberty Livewires club, said Massmann, adding that the kids in her club are very active and involved in the community and in doing community projects.

"We see at least three-fourths of our kids at every meeting," said Massmann. "We are a very active club and the kids have a lot of community pride."

Some of the events that Massmann helps out with include the once-a-year Tween Lock-in for fourth through sixth grade 4-H members and the Pajama Party for first through third grade members, along with the rabbit show and interviews for livestock at the Douglas County Fair.

The Liberty Livewires also helped out with a prom for disabled adults, she said.

"We took pictures and handed them out to the participants," she said. "My kids have learned to have patience and be calm around all spectrums."

The students in Massmann's 4-H club also were involved in a community project in the town of Nelson. The kids wrote a grant to get funds to spruce up the playground at the park, said Massmann. She said part of the project was putting new mulch down throughout the grounds of the park.

"Our club is big into community pride and this was just one way for us to show it," said Massmann. "The kids love working on projects for the community."

Another project that Massmann volunteered her time with was Math Mats. These are bags that are sewn together and then they are filled with bingo chips, a deck of cards and a set of guided math "mats," which are math problems that are printed on sheets of paper and then inserted back-to-back in clear page protectors in a three-ring binder. They are learning games that are typically for use by students in first through fourth grades, said Massmann.

Throughout the year, there are many other projects or events that the Liberty Livewires 4-H Club helps out with and most often, Massmann is right there, volunteering to help out whenever and however she can.

Massmann said she enjoys helping out, whether it is a community project in Nelson or even some other town or at the Douglas County Fair.

During fair week, she said there is a lot of hustle and bustle and it sometimes is "a little crazy," but it's such a great way for kids to learn about showmanship, responsibility and leadership, as well as how to interact and communicate with adults.

"We like to raise our animals for the fair," said Massmann. "We make the best of what we are given."

Massmann's daughter, Kendra, who has been in 4-H for seven years and her son, Shane, who has been in it for nine years, both show animals at the fair, including goats, rabbits and pigeons.

"We have pigs, too," she said, "But we don't show them."

Massmann encourages students to get involved in 4-H, adding that there are between 12 and 15 clubs in the Douglas County area. In addition, she said that anyone can be a volunteer with 4-H and that "you don't even have to have any kids to be involved."

To get involved, she suggested calling the University of Minnesota Extension office in Douglas County at the Douglas County Library. The office can be reached by calling (320) 762-3890. Information can also be found on its website at

When Massmann was asked what it takes to be a good volunteer, she said, "It takes time and dedication. And you will make time for things you enjoy."

Massmann plans on continuing to volunteer with the 4-H program long after her kids are no longer involved, just like long-time 4-H volunteer Gladys Sanborn, whose name around Douglas County is synonymous with 4-H.

"I will be your Gladys some day," Massmann concluded.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242