Joelle Wacker's helps youth honor veterans through Quilts of Valor program

Joelle Wacker's helps youth honor veterans through Quilts of Valor program

In observance of the Week of the Volunteer, Nebraska 4-H is proud to celebrate some of the 2023 Nebraska 4-H Volunteer Award Winners.

Joelle Wacker is receiving the Emerging Adult Volunteer Award for Zone 7. Joelle volunteers with the Polk County 4-H program and was nominated by Colleen Pallas, Nebraska Extension Assistant in Polk County.

Joelle has a passion for the Quilts of Valor program. In 2020, she volunteered to coordinate the Polk County 4-H Quilts of Valor program. She has spent the last three years leading workshops and helping youth create quilts that they then donate to local veterans. During her time as program coordinator, Polk County 4-H members have completed and donated thirty Quilts of Valor. She is currently helping another ten members create quilts that will be finished this spring.

"Most of the 4-Her’s attending the workshops agree that presenting their Quilt is the best part of the project," said Pallas.

While quilting can be costly, Joelle works to ensure this is not a barrier for youth. She collects donations to reduce or even eliminate costs for members and recruits volunteers to help prepare materials. 

"These youth learn new sewing skills as most have never quilted before," said Pallas. "They also learn compassion and the importance of community service through the time and effort it takes just to make one quilt, which can equal ten plus hours, only to turn around and give their Quilt of Valor away to a veteran."

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up participating in Box Butte County 4-H from age 8 to 18. After my husband finished his service with the U.S. Navy, we knew we wanted to raise our kids in Nebraska and I wanted them to be part of a 4-H program. We settled in Shelby and are involved in Polk County 4-H.

I organize a Quilts of Valor workshop for Polk County 4-Hers each spring, I help with Blossomfield 4-H Club, and I am the current president of Polk County's Extension Board. Outside of 4-H, I volunteer within Shelby's American Legion Auxiliary Post 296, Sacred Heart Church in Shelby, Aquinas Catholic Schools in David City, and I lead the Stars, Stripes, and Stitches Quilts of Valor group.

What do you look forward to when you step into your volunteer role?

I enjoy helping 4-Hers grow and learn, especially through sewing as it stretches your mind.

What is your favorite memory as a 4-H volunteer?

Seeing the accomplishment on a 4-Her's face when they complete a whole quilt top at our Quilts of Valor workshop.

How have you helped youth find their spark through 4-H?

I'm hoping that in providing 4-Hers with a chance to learn more about sewing and quilting by creating a Quilt of Valor to award to a military veteran, I will help spark both their creativity and their patriotism.