|The Erekson family works with Harvest Aviation to supply missionary families.|
Denise Erekson loves to teach, and as a homeschooling mom of five girls, she gets plenty of practice.
But Erekson isn't just devoted to her own girls. She also is the leader for the Green Acres 4-H club, Wauchula's local homeschooling club that bustles with 40 kids ages 5 to 18.
"When we were new to the community, I wanted the girls to have an opportunity to have interaction with the community and to meet new friends outside of our church," said Erekson.
The family moved to Hardee County six years ago from Ohio, but Erekson and her husband, Ronny, are originally Texas ranchers who worked cattle for 15 years. The family left the Lone Star state to take a job with Harvest Aviation, a not-for-profit flight service that delivers cargo to missionary families in Belize in Central America. Ronny is the aircraft mechanic for the local group, which flies out of the Wauchula Municipal Airport.
"We fly homeschool supplies, medical supplies, diapers ..." explained Erekson, her Texas drawl still quite pronounced. Sometimes they'll bring missionaries back for short furloughs. They also supply a girls' orphanage.
This spirit of charity carries over into her work with 4-H. Erekson is overseeing the Youth Against Poverty campaign, a Florida state 4-H community service initiative organized through a 4-H county council. It's the first time Hardee County has had a county council in eight years, she said.
To fight poverty, the kids have developed a food drive they've dubbed The Hunger Games after the popular book that was adapted to film earlier this year.
Erekson was quick to point out that while she is the adult adviser on the program, the initiative itself is youth-led, and that 4-H is a youth development association focused on building leadership skills in young people.
Participating students will organize the food drive, advertise it, liaise with the Hardee County food bank, negotiate drop-off points with local grocery stores and businesses, and arrange pick up and delivery of donations. Basically, they'll run the whole thing.
"It's encouraging these youth to be all that they can be and to encourage responsible leadership. Because these youth are going to be the next leaders in our community, husbands in their homes, our next entrepreneurs ... " Erekson explained.
Part of leading youth in projects such as running a food drive or organizing a banquet (like they did last May) is letting kids make mistakes and sometimes even fail.
"They will fail, but it's all right. We pick up and move on," said Erekson. "It thrills me to see these kids doing things they didn't realize they could do."
All five of her girls, ages 9 to 18, are homeschooled and involved in 4-H. "I take Deuteronomy 6 to heart," stated Erekson, paraphrasing the Bible verse: "You will teach your kids walking in the road and when they rise in the morning." She added, "Teaching is not just book skills. It's life skills."
via Highlands Today