Leaving the community of Clark to be closer to her children and grandchildren after retirement was difficult for Delores Henderson.
“Clark is a very friendly community and leaving the people of Clark was hard for me,” explained the 2022 Eminent Leader in Agriculture, Family and Community.
Reflecting on a 25-year career in Extension, Henderson said it is the people she served that made her career so rewarding.
“I really enjoy working with people and helping them learn and connect with information,” she explained.
Recognized for her leadership and volunteer efforts, Henderson was named a 2022 Eminent Leader in Agriculture, Family and Community by South Dakota State University Colleges of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences and Education & Human Sciences. She will be recognized during an honoree banquet held at McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor’s Center on the campus of SDSU September 16, 2022. During the banquet portraits of the award recipients are unveiled. These portraits will be displayed in a virtual gallery at www.sdstate.edu/eminent-leaders-honorees. Henderson’s portrait joins more than 350 portraits of Eminent Leaders.
More about Delores Henderson
Raised in Clark County, Henderson spent most of her life in the rural community. Leaving home to pursue a degree in Home Economics at South Dakota State University, she initially planned a career as a high school Home Economics teacher. As it turned out, when she and her husband, Earl moved to White River for his career, there were no teaching positions open. However, Henderson saw an opening to work as an Extension Educator for Todd, Mellette & Jones Counties.
When Earl’s career returned the family to Clark County, there was a teaching position open, but by this time Henderson said she loved working in Extension, so she became the Clark County Extension Educator.
“I feel Extension gave me the best of both worlds,” Henderson said. “When I worked with youth, I enjoyed their vitality and enthusiasm. When I worked with adults, I gained a lot from their wisdom and experience.”
And even though Clark County is where she grew up, serving as an Extension Educator is really how Henderson got to know the people of Clark County.
“After working in Extension, I knew most of the people from both ends of the county,” Henderson said.
Providing the people of Clark County with the resources, education and information they needed motivated Henderson to step outside her comfort zone.
Throughout her career she wrote more than 1,300 weekly educational columns for the local newspaper – a chore she admits in retirement she did not enjoy. However, to this day, community members fondly remember her columns.
“As an Extension Educator, communication is so important,” Henderson said. “I was asked many questions that I could not answer, but I knew it was my job to find the source to answer the question.”
When there was a need in Extension for a regional expert in family budgeting and finance, she volunteered to become that expert.
“Finances were not one of my strengths. But I knew it was a very important aspect of many families’ lives,” Henderson said.
As a mother of two, son Kirk and daughter Kristi, she understood the financial pressures families face. She invested many evening and weekend hours studying. As the Family Financial Resource Management Extension specialist, Henderson hosted workshops and provided one-on-one mentoring. Remembering the impact, she said the extra efforts paid off.
“There was one family who was contemplating selling everything and moving so they could get a fresh start. We worked together and they were able to get out of debt and stay where they wanted to live,” Henderson said.
Although she enjoyed nearly every aspect of her Extension Career, Henderson said working with 4-H youth and leaders is among her favorite roles. Early in her career, she noticed low participation in the state 4-H camp because of distance. So, she started a local 4-H camp and put the Junior Leaders in charge of its planning. Soon 30 to 40 Clark County 4-Hers were attending Clark County 4-H Camp each summer.
“I thought more youth should have the camping experience,” Henderson said. “It was great to see the older youth blossom through the leadership experience.”
Throughout her career, Henderson was recognized with numerous awards and leadership positions because of her eagerness to serve not only the people of Clark County, but her peers in Extension.
“I believe in the profession of Extension and the ability it gave me to help citizens improve their lives,” Henderson said. “I was always driven to continue to improve as an Extension Educator and help the profession overall.”
By Lura Roti for SDSU Colleges of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences and Education & Human Sciences