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Investing in Tomorrow's Leaders

Sterling and Cheryl Allen's journey with 4-H began in the fields and fairgrounds of Oregon, where they first discovered their passion for agriculture and community. Today, their commitment to OSU Extension’s 4-H program extends beyond their own experiences, aiming to provide leadership opportunities for Oregon’s rural youth through a thoughtful planned estate gift with the Oregon 4-H Foundation. Raised in Athena, Oregon, Sterling's early life was steeped in 4-H culture as a member of the Athena Livestock Wranglers 4-H Club, showing lambs and steers in Umatilla County. Sterling shared that he “loved being a 4-H’er but didn’t truly understand the impact of 4-H until much later.” Cheryl's 4-H journey is equally rich, starting in Baker County where her father was the local 4-H agent. “Fair was all we did all summer long. My dad even took a group to 4-H Congress in Atlanta.” Cheryl and Sterling both remember coming to OSU for 4-H Summer School where they “got to go to classes and meet so many people. Even the 6-hour bus ride to campus from Eastern Oregon was exciting!” Into their adult years they remained involved, becoming 4-H club leaders when they had children of their own. The Allen’s dedication to the organization deepened even more when Sterling joined the Oregon 4-H Foundation board, where he gained a comprehensive understanding of 4-H's vast impact on youth. “We’d learn from kids about their projects and programs and goals. 4-H is vast in possibilities and impact — being on the board really showed me how 4-H impacts so many kids’ lives in positive ways. Learning more about the big picture made such a difference.” Sterling, reflecting on his decision to include 4-H in their estate plans, shared, "I saw Norbert and Eileen Hartman’s story on the back of the OSU alumni magazine, and I talked to Norbert about it. I was surprised that they could designate the programs they wanted the benefit to go to, and I started thinking about ways we could experience the same joy of giving back." They envisioned their contribution supporting leadership opportunities specifically for 4-H members in Umatilla County. "We wanted to give back to our home county, Umatilla, specifically for 4-H programs and scholarships. So, if kids want to go to a leadership conference like Oregon Summer Conference or National 4-H Conference, or to experience camp, we wanted them to be able to do that," Sterling explained. “We know some kids are so driven to do more, but they don’t necessarily realize what’s available to them through 4-H. In Eastern Oregon, the travel to leadership experiences like Summer Conference and National Congress can seem too expensive for their families. We wanted to clear a path for them to experience broader things at the state and national level that they’d love if they just had the opportunity to go. Sometimes, kids and families only hear about the opportunities available to them around fair and showing animals. But there’s so much more they can do, and we wanted to help them access more opportunities to learn, grow and discover their potential.” The process of making a planned estate gift to the Oregon 4-H Foundation was made straightforward and meaningful with the help of foundation staff, who guided them through each step. Foundation staff “helped talk us through it and gave us the correct verbiage to give our lawyer, and then she reviewed it for us. When it was all done, our lawyer sent it over to the foundation to keep it on file. Our lawyer wasn’t necessarily experienced in this kind of estate gift, so it was great to have the information and plans from the OSU Foundation to hand him. That help made everything easy,” said Sterling. Sterling and Cheryl Allen’s legacy embodies the 4-H motto, “to make the best better,” and serves as a call to action for others to consider how they, too, can contribute to shaping the leaders of tomorrow

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