Sharon Hinkeldey, leader of the Delafield Diggers 4-H Club in Jackson County for the past 60 years, briefly thought about retiring this year.
Then she got back to work.
“What would I do if I wasn’t working with my 4-H kids?” Hinkeldey said. “I just enjoy it too much to stop.”
Though she’s been at the helm of the Delafield Diggers 4-H Club for the last six decades, her involvement in 4-H stretches back nearly three-quarters of a century.
“I was in 4-H myself with the Bergen club for 10 years prior to coming on as a leader,” she said. “It’s just always been a part of my life.”
Hinkeldey said she first volunteered to serve as a club leader because of her belief in 4-H as a premier youth organization.
“I truly believe in 4-H,” she said. “It’s a good program for youth for learning life skills and leadership.”
She continues to volunteer because that belief has only strengthened.
Over the last 60 years, she’s helped shepherd her children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren through 4-H as Delafield Diggers. And in that time, she’s seen plenty of change.
“There are a lot more project areas today than we used to have,” Hinkeldey said, “though fewer entries in each.”
Back when she was in 4-H, beef cattle filled two barns at the Jackson County Fair and the dairy project was strong. Today, there are far fewer beef cattle exhibited at the fair, she said, and the Hinkeldeys are the only family raising dairy cattle in Jackson County.
“Things change,” she said.
What hasn’t changed is her favorite part of being a club leader — namely, seeing all her 4-H members’ hard work pay off, whether that’s at the end-of-year recognition banquet or in life.
“It’s a highlight to work with youth and then see that hard work pay off,” she said. “The youth really do work hard and then to see them recognized at the end of the year is special. We’ve won club of the year many, many times, and now we’ve won it the past three years in a row. But even more than that, it’s seeing how they grow and how they go on after 4-H and succeed in life and make this world a better place. That keeps me going.”