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NDSU Center for 4-H honors volunteers

Phyllis Otterness of Tower City, N.D., and Jeff Ellingson of Bismarck, N.D., have been honored for their volunteer service to 4-H. The North Dakota State University Extension Service's Center for 4-H Youth Development presented Otterness with the...

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Phyllis Otterness of Tower City, N.D., and Jeff Ellingson of Bismarck, N.D., have been honored for their volunteer service to 4-H.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service's Center for 4-H Youth Development presented Otterness with the Salute to Excellence North Dakota 4-H Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award and Ellingson with the Salute to Excellence North Dakota 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award for 2015.

As a volunteer for the Barnes County 4-H program, Otterness has positively influenced hundreds of youth in the club setting and through her work at county 4-H events. She has served as the main leader for the Better Livestock 4-H Club for 44 years and consistently has one of the largest clubs in the county.

She encourages 4-H'ers to choose projects that best fit them and to do their best. She sets high standards for club members, requiring each one to do at least one demonstration during the club year and strongly encouraging them to participate in at least one judging team to learn problem-solving and decision-making skills. In addition, she expects older 4-H'ers to mentor younger members.

Her caring attitude toward everyone makes people enjoy working with her. Because of her innate ability to work with diverse audiences, such as youth with developmental disabilities, she has earned their trust.

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Otterness also has mentored new county Extension agents and been a valuable resource for them on event and club history.

One of her other volunteer roles is serving as a Cloverbud judge during the Barnes County 4-H Achievement Days. She talks with the 5- to 7-year-olds about their projects in a gentle and encouraging way and as a result, the county 4-H program has lost very few Cloverbuds after their first few Achievement Days.

Ellingson and his wife, Jenny, started the Hay Creek Kids 4-H Club, which has grown from a few kids to more than 20 active members.

One of his favorite parts of serving as a club leader is working with youth on their projects, which they've taken to the Morton County Fair and North Dakota State Fair in Minot. Those projects include bird houses, gumball machines, lighted glass blocks and numerous sewing projects. He makes sure he and other volunteers he recruits are available if the 4-H'ers need help with their projects.

He made some of his property available for the club to create a hunger-free garden to grow food for the needy. The club members and their parents have a planting, weeding and harvesting schedule each year. The amount of produce they've been able to donate to Bismarck/Mandan-area shelters has grown from 900 to 2,100 pounds.

Under Ellingson's leadership, the club also has been involved in efforts such as a relay for life and toy drive, as well as fundraising. The booth where club members sell funnel cakes and deep-fried Oreos teaches them about entrepreneurship and taking responsibility.

In addition, he has served as vice president and president of the Morton County 4-H Council, and the county's shooting sports program coach and coordinator. One year, he was the archery coach for the team that advanced to the 4-H National Invitational.

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