Service, to Sarah Gregory, is more than offering a few hours of her time here and there – it’s more like a way of life. For 50 years, she has been improving her community by helping the individuals who comprise it; and she never sees herself stopping because “it’s hard to say no when somebody needs something,” she said.
Gregory has never said no to the 4-H program, and as Oct. 2-8 is National 4-H Week, she will be attending a Chesterfield 4-H Open House at Rockwood Park, at shelter number 2, on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1 to 4 p.m., where several clubs will be present, each having a booth offering information and on-site enrollment.
A Chester resident for 43 years – and a Chesterfield County resident her entire life – Gregory, 61, first learned the power of service through her mother, a 4-H leader during her youth. 4-H, which stands for “Head, Heart, Hands and Health,” is a youth development organization engaging young people so they reach their fullest potential. By officially joining 4-H at age nine, Gregory began a life-long devotion to learning and, subsequently, helping others. After graduating from Grange Hall High School – years after attending segregated schools – she used the knowledge and skills she learned through her 4-H education to have successful careers in upholstery, alterations and teaching.
Gregory then taught for Virginia Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach program partnering with Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, as well as local and state governments, to spread positive personal and societal change – in turn leading to more productive lives, families, farms and forests, and a better environment.
4-H then became the program under Cooperative Extension with which Gregory chose to volunteer a majority of her time because she gained so much as a young “4-H’er” that she wanted to see others do the same, she said.
“It’s wonderful watching children come up through 4-H and learn so much; they get so smart with all the learning they do,” she said. “I really enjoy learning and watching kids grow up; and when they find out which avenue they want to pursue, it’s exciting to me … we can teach these kids to survive and help their families – that’s the reason I help with 4-H.”
And though Gregory, a state licensed upholsterer, puts aside a day a week to teach upholstery at Amelia-Nottoway Technical Center, she is a full-time volunteer; she spends at least 40 hours a week volunteering for 4-H, with Girl Scouts as a leader of the Chester Service Unit, and with the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia as a member of the African-American History Committee.
She is also a board member for the Jamestown 4-H Center, a representative for the Virginia Extension Leadership Council, and was previously on the Virginia Cooperative Extension State Advisory Board representing Chesterfield County. She has received numerous awards for her extensive work with 4-H.
Her husband of 43 years, Ruffin Gregory, Jr., is very supportive of her life of service. “It sure keeps her going,” he said. “I’m glad she’s involved and has such a high interest in it; it really motivates her.”
During Saturday’s Open House, a 4-H information booth and a 4-H Mentor program booth will also be there; plus the event will include numerous activities: a scavenger hunt, raffle drawings, games and face painting. Door prizes, free popcorn and drinks will also be given away at the Open House.