A living legend: Sarah Gregory honored with induction into National 4-H Hall of Fame
“I will keep on teaching these life skills — that’s what I believe in. We make the best better,” Gregory said. “I love 4-H.”
For her volunteer work spanning 64 years and counting, Sarah Gregory was recently inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame during celebrations in Washington, D.C.
“We owe an incredible debt to Sarah,” said Jeremy Johnson, the Virginia State 4-H leader. “She has given selflessly throughout her entire life to help Virginia’s youth, and this honor is most deserved.”
Gregory’s 4-H volunteer experiences reach back to a time when racial segregation excluded her from receiving all that 4-H had to offer and stretch through the present, where she plays a leading role in advocating for diversity and inclusion.
“I love 4-H. I love people, working, helping, teaching, and sharing. When the kids are happy, they’re learning and they’re excited about what they learn,” Gregory said. “I will keep on teaching these life skills — that’s what I believe in. We make the best better.”
Gregory began her 4-H career with a passion for sewing and shared that skill with youth. She organized numerous sewing projects with local 4-Hers over the years, including an annual event to make and donate holiday stockings for a local senior care facility, a summer day camp on textile design, projects for county fair submissions, and a project to design, create, send dresses for girls in Haiti.
As a steadfast believer in the benefits of international programs, Gregory has been a passionate advocate for the International 4-H Youth Exchange program since the 1990s, starting with her own children before helping to facilitate exchanges and hosting duties.
Gregory has coordinated countless experiences for students and volunteers from a number of countries. Gregory was awarded the 2013 State 4-H Congress Volunteer Award for her exemplary work and was inducted into the prestigious Chesterfield County Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame.
Gregory’s national award stems from the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals, National 4-H Council, and 4-H National Headquarters, which partnered to create the National 4-H Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was established to recognize 4-H volunteers, Cooperative Extension professionals, staff employees, and others who made a significant impact on 4-H.
“Quite simply, Sarah Gregory is a force of nature. After decades of service to others she has yet to slow down or let anything get in the way of that mission. She sees potential in everything and everyone,” said Bethany Eigel, the Chesterfield County 4-H agent. “Virginia 4-H is so fortunate to be one of the many passion areas Sarah has chosen to champion, and she continues to leave her mark. What a fitting tribute to see her recognized at the national level for all that she has accomplished, including what has been handed down for others to carry generations in to the future.”
A good neighbor
Gregory began volunteering with her county agricultural fair as a small child in the 1950s at a time when her local Chesterfield County operated two fairs: one for white residents and another for Blacks. She worked to help preserve the history of the Chesterfield County Colored Farmers’ Fair and is a longtime supporter of the current fair, which was integrated in 1968, where she still supervises the 4-H displays. She also works with her local historical society on a significant project to map the locations of former African American schools to ensure this history is not lost to time.
“When I was young in the early 1950s, my parents, Mary Elliot Jackson and Rev. John Andrew Jackson, were 4-H leaders with the Winterpock 4-H Club. Mr. R. F. Jones, Elsie Lively, and James Edwards were our Extension agents. I would attend 4-H meetings at the Pleasant View Community Center in Winterpock, Virginia, with my younger sisters and brothers. They all had jobs to do as club officers. The 4-H club was teaching so much,” she said.
There, Gregory learned positive youth development, home economics, and agricultural and animal life science working with their agents, Virginia State College, and neighbors, families, and friends.
“I completed all the requirements to become an outstanding 4-Her at 18 years and received a trip to Virginia Tech. It was a great trip to go to State 4-H Congress in 1968,” Gregory said. “In 1986, my daughter and I won the National 4-H trip to Chicago, Illinois, where over 1,500 4-Hers were in attendance from all over the U.S. My daughter and I were tapped into the Virginia Chapter of 4-H All Stars in 1987.”
A role model for youth
Gregory spent countless hours in support of youth from across Virginia and around the world — even being recognized across the state for her leadership in many 4-H programs and events. Gregory became a leader of the 4-H Business Bunch Club in the 1970s with her own children as members, a club that includes her granddaughter.
Chesterfield County has benefited from Gregory’s volunteerism for more than 40 years. She currently leads two different clubs in the county and teaches a class at camp every summer. She has served on the board at the Jamestown 4- H Educational Center and is a unit representative for the Virginia Association of Adult 4-H Volunteer Leaders. Gregory is still active with the Virginia 4-H All-Stars and serves as president of the Jamestown Chapter.
At 4-H State Congress is where Gregory shines. She is integral to the planning and execution of the all-star consecration ceremony and mentors many youths and adults. She constantly strives to reach out to her community in a positive way, including supporting programs at Virginia’s 1890 Land Grant institution, Virginia State University.
In Virginia 4-H, and now National 4-H, Gregory is truly a living legend.
“I love 4-H,” she said.