I’ll remember 2018 for the incredibly generous UF/IFAS response to Hurricane Michael. It was an inspiration. It was poignant. But it was not a surprise.
Maybe it’s the service ethic that draws people to IFAS in the first place. Maybe it’s the relationships we form throughout the communities in which we work. There just seems to be a giving spirit in the IFAS family. It’s there year-round.
Over the winter, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County Director Marcus Boston and 4-H agent Allison Leo help 4-Hers pick backyard citrus from Tallahassee trees that otherwise would go to waste. They harvest the fruit for local food banks to feed families in food deserts. Their manual labor and passion for giving helps both families with too much fruit on their hands and families without enough.
In the springtime, UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County agent Monica Dawkins (who retires this month after 41 years on the job!) organizes an annual march in her community that raises tens of thousands of dollars for cancer research. In the run-up to the walk she has to cut back on her regular serving lunch at the homeless shelter and helping kids through her church’s children’s ministry.
Bryan Unruh of the West Florida Research and Education Center hasn’t had a summer vacation in years – because he and his wife have been busy with foster kids, who can’t travel without permission from the biological parents. So summers have been car trips to day care, day camps, and karate lessons. Nineteen of them have lived with his wife and him at some point over the past six years, including one who arrived with a six-month-old baby.
Fall is the season for FCS agent Julianne Shoup to “harvest” a coveted but expensive item for Jefferson County food pantries and school backpack stuffers: peanut butter. She somehow managed to collect nearly a ton of peanut butter in a county so sparsely populated that it’s said not to have a traffic light.
No, it is no surprise that in the season of giving we have 4-Hers collecting toys for children affected by the hurricane and other acts of service happening up and down the state.
Sometimes I wonder if our science would make as much impact if there weren’t so much heart in our scientists and staff.
Thanks for your hard work this year. Thanks, too, for what you do off the job. May you and your families have healthy, happy holidays.