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Longtime 4-H leader retires

"For over a quarter of a century Jan Coffman has made sure that there are interesting, active clubs for hundreds of Island County kids interested in any number of hobbies or activities - from raising chickens to learning needlework to doing community service work.While she was coordinating as many as 40 clubs, Coffman organized some of the biggest events for children in the county. It was all just a monumental task and Jan seemed to do it effortlessly, said Don Meehan, chairman of the Washington State University / Island County Cooperative Extension. From the fair to Super Saturday, Jan organized all of that stuff and it just kind of happens.But after 34 years at the extension office in Coupeville, Coffman is retiring as the coordinator of the 4-H program. Her co-workers are inviting the public to attend a retirement party in her honor at the Coupeville Rec Hall Jan. 31 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. A ceremonial speech will occur at 3:30 p.m.While most of the 4-H children were probably not aware of Coffman's work, Meehan said she quietly recruited and organized volunteers and coordinated everything for all the clubs, the animal auction and many other monumental undertakings.The events include things like Super Saturday - an all-day educational program that involves over 200 kids - Rally Night, 4-H Achieve Night, the spring show and the 4-H ropes course. She has played a very active role in the Teen Ambassador Program, since her grandchild is involved.Of course there's also the Island County Fair, which is one of the biggest public events on the island each year. Meehan said Coffman has been largely responsible for organizing the 4-H portion of the fair, which is probably the biggest attraction.We affectionately refer to her as the mother of 4-H in Island County, Meehan said. She's the person everyone looks to.Yet Coffman is shy about all the compliments and says she was just doing her job the best she could. She says the county's 4-H program itself should get attention for all it has done for kids. Between 300 and 400 kids in the county are currently involved in 4-H one way or another. It's becoming increasingly popular with home-schooled children and others who want their children to have exciting, educational experiences outside the normal classroom setting.There's a misconception that 4-H is for farm kids, she said. There's more than animals. Community service and leadership, exchange programs - there are a lot of opportunities. "

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