Susan VanderWal contributes her time and talents to support her rural community, church, family and local youth in the 4-H program.
She has helped countless 4-H youth, leaders and parents for the past 25 years as the Brookings County 4-H office manager.
“I believe 4-H is so important because kids learn countless life-long skills and I love seeing them grow through their involvement in the program,” VanderWal says. “I enjoy lending a helping hand and offering support and encouragement to any 4-H members, leaders and parents.
In addition to keeping track of forms and doing bookkeeping, VanderWal also coordinates numerous events on the local and state levels, including special foods, fashion review, public presentation day and achievement days. Additionally, she transports all the local 4-H exhibits to the state fair and sets up the county booth.
“I became involved in 4-H when I had children and served as the assistant club leader of the West Sioux 4-H Club. I was then the club leader for nearly 10 years as our three children, Kelly, Jeff and Londa, moved through their 4-H years,” VanderWal explains.
She married her high school sweetheart, Dale, who was also a local farmer. They farmed with her late husband’s parents and brother on a diversified crop and livestock farm.
“I was always active helping on the farm, whether it was driving truck, working cattle or hauling silage, and usually with a kid or two on my leg,” VanderWal says.
Their kids were very active in 4-H, doing everything from showing livestock to foods and clothing. VanderWal also coached their beef quiz bowl teams for several years.
“I often felt I learned more than the kids as their quiz bowl coach,” VanderWal says.
Her family provides local youth with learning experiences by hosting the local livestock judging contest for their county and surrounding counties, something they have done for about 30 years.
VanderWal also sponsors the Beef Performance Award at the Brookings County Achievement Days, which is a monetary gift given to a 4-H member based on a written test score, rate of gain and their placing.
“It is important to me to sponsor this award because I want to stress to the youth that the color of the ribbon isn’t what is most important, but what they learn from a project,” VanderWal explains.
VanderWal’s contributions to the 4-H program haven’t gone unnoticed. She received the Good Neighbor award and was named the Friend of 4-H in Brookings County in 2014.
VanderWal is a devoted member of the Volga First Reformed Church where she has served as the part-time church secretary for 35 years. She has also supported the local school as past coordinator for the junior high regional solo contest.
VanderWal supports the FFA program in numerous ways as well and has judged proficiencies.
Additionally, VanderWal has been active in the Jolly Bunch Extension Club, Brookings County Farm Bureau and Volga Christian School PTA.
VanderWal says she would gladly do anything for her family. When her brother was diagnosed with cancer, she donated stem cells and lymphocyte’s to him twice.
“Being a donor was a really neat and humbling experience,” she says.
In her free time, VanderWal can be found cheering on her nine grandkids at 4-H and FFA events, sporting events and school programs.
“My life motto is to help others whenever and wherever I can; God has given me specific talents that I can use to serve Him by serving others,” VanderWal says.