Jim Hilderbrandt, a 1989 graduate of Metter High School, was very active in the Candler County 4-H program during grade school, frequently representing the county and district at state and national events. He served as a member of the Southeast District Board of Directors 1988-89 and won state Master 4-H’er in his senior project and Teen Leadership.
He is now Eastern Divisional Team Leader of Banking and Lending Solutions at JP Morgan Securities and remains active in 4-H programming through serving on the Georgia 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees, and he recently chaired the largest statewide 4-H Gala in history in 2019.
In addition to his statewide duties, Jim has raised funds each of the last few years to help supplement multiple camp scholarships and programming costs for Candler County youth who need assistance in being able to enjoy all that the program offers. Recently, all of the youth who were registered for 2020 summer camps but could not go due to the pandemic received a commemorative Camp t-shirt that Jim’s donations sponsored.
Metter Advertiser reached out to Jim last week for reflections on how vital the local 4-H program is to our community. Here’s his response:
As you know, 4-H has been a huge part of my life since grade school there in Candler County.
When I’m asked to speak to groups about what it means to me, I share that it was a foundational cornerstone in my adolescence that provided me with a great many opportunities to learn and grow that have helped me tremendously in life and my career.
One of the most wonderful aspects of the program is that it allows youth to elect a variety of topics to study and has an infrastructure designed to help them pursue almost any area of interest to their fullest extent. Often, these early platforms provide youth with critical skills like project management, team collaboration and public speaking that go on to serve them well throughout their lives.
Another component to Georgia 4-H that is just as powerful to a young person, especially those of us from small communities, is the expansive network of mentors and other youth with similar interests. I can still remember the energy and enthusiasm I had back in the 80’s for my robust 4-H pen pal base from all over my district and the state made up of friends made at camps or on other trips organized by the club. Quite a number of these relationships became lifelong friendships and 4-H’ers will often tell you that this community becomes a second family.
Last were life skills that our local agent and others in the statewide organization made sure we were taught. From writing thank you notes to cooking, table manners, consumer judging and basic sewing, to the importance and duty of civic involvement, my friends often joked about me having quite the robust set of “4-H skillz” to save the day when something unexpected happened.
Once, those basic sewing skills came in real handy when I was the best man for one of my 4-H buddies and had to sew the mother of the bride into her dress after the sole zipper burst mere moments before the ceremony. No joke. But seriously, these “life skills” are designed to help every youth be equipped to grow into leaders for their club, community and our world, as our pledge says.
I’m saddened to see such a strong 4-H Agent as Angie Daughtry pass the torch along after so many wonderful years of leadership back home. I’ve been so proud of the work she’s done to offer the best of the best to the members of the club who have gone on to achieve tremendous statewide success.
I’ve spoken with District and State Leadership to understand their plans to begin to source a new leader for Candler County and am involved in ongoing conversations about the topic. I hope to have more clarity about timing in the coming weeks.
Please let the citizens of Candler County know that leaders will do everything in their power to provide support from surrounding counties in the interim and fully intend to find the perfect new leader as soon as they are able.
If anyone is interested in helping, there will be opportunities to become volunteer leaders to help facilitate certain activities or accompany youth on trips when those become safe to do again. I’ll also attempt to keep you informed as I learn more about the plan and these opportunities.