By Sarah Slayman
The Groveport Buttoneers 4H Club celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.
Gerry Zwayer of Groveport believes the 4H organization is the best program for children to grow up with.
The development foundation focuses on enriching the lives of children through a variety of activity-based clubs ranging from animal care to science education. All five of Zwayer’s children, 10 of her grandchildren, and now some of her great-grandchildren have been raised within it.
Until the early 1970s, the only clubs available involved raising livestock. That doesn’t peak every child’s interest, but the appeal to a social club was strong especially considering the nature of rural families having their houses far apart from one another.
Zwayer’s daughter expressed her interest in learning to sew and cook, as well as many of her neighbor’s daughters. Zwayer saw this as an opportunity, and in 1973, headed up the Groveport Buttoneers Club, a group that made a community around home economics. This led to a 44 year long streak of her being a 4H advisor where Zwayer watched the group evolve from sewing elastic waist skirts and baking to now including welding projects and photography education. She has recently retired from this position, but still attends the fair every year.
The group has met in a various homes and churches over the decades and has crafted a rooted community that spans generations, sometimes grouping over 30 kids in a given year.
Throughout all her years, Zwayer said, “The biggest blessing has just been getting to know so many kids.”
She recalls the weeks they would camp out at the fair each summer and cherishes memories made with other families.
These clubs have been fun for kids, but offer many transferable skills within independence and work ethic as well. Zwayer enjoyed pouring into the community in this way watching them grow into the adults they’ve become today.
“I got much more from 4H than I ever gave to any of those children,” said Zwayer.
Zwayer was the first to make a way for kids who wanted to be a part of the larger 4H community that did not necessarily show interest in raising livestock, which widened opportunities significantly. Her initiative continues to enrich generations of families through education and community.
The Groveport Fourth of July parade will have a float celebrating the Buttoneers’ 50th anniversary.
For information about 4H programs, visit https://ohio4h.org/about/join-4-h.