Fifty years. Half a century. Two or even three generations. Nine U.S. Presidents. Fifty County Fairs. Dial-up phones to iPhones. Elbert County population growth from 4,000 to 24,000. Legal pads and pencils to laptop computers. Betty Hood as an Elbert County 4-H Leader!
Some might say it is impossible. Some might say it is crazy, and some might say it’s been the best 50 years in the County’s history. Hundreds of 4-H youth over the past 50 years have been nurtured, scolded, encouraged, guided, and loved by a remarkable and talented soul…a soul that has poured her heart and energy into making the best better for our youth, our families, and our community…even our world.
Betty (Wiley) Hood grew up in the Oklahoma Panhandle near Keyes, where she graduated from the Keyes Schools in 1956, and where she was a 4-H member for ten years. Following her graduation from high school, she attended and graduated from Panhandle A & M College in 1960, where she participated for one year in collegiate 4-H.
In 1959, she married Larry Hood, and they moved to Elbert County in 1962. They lived in the town of Elbert for four years, before moving to Denver. In 1968, after two years in Denver, Larry and Betty returned to Elbert County to live in Kiowa. In the fall of that year (1968), Betty’s remarkable tenure as an Elbert County 4-H leader began. Betty and Larry had three children, Leona, Larry, and Larissa, and all three were active 4-H members for at least ten years or more. Some might say they did not have a choice! However, their 4-H records clearly demonstrate the true commitment each had to the program.
Betty taught at the Elbert School for two years and then at the Kiowa Schools for 33 years. Her reputation as the kindergarten teacher preparing countless children for elementary, junior, and senior high school is legendary throughout the County. Many of her former students found themselves in Betty’s 4-H Club, Kiowa Community. And, several of her former 4-H members have children in her club today. Many of her former members have served our county as 4-H project leaders, coaches, and judges.
Betty has been the co-main leader of the Kiowa Community Club for most of her fifty years. She also was the leader of the Elbert County Exchange group for six years, where she sponsored three out-of-state trips. She was a chaperone for the Washington Focus trip one year. Betty’s service to 4-H and Elbert County has not gone unnoticed. She has received the Friend of 4-H Award, the Extra Mile Award, and the Partner in 4-H Award at the county level. Additionally, Betty was recognized as the Outstanding 4-H Adult Leader in Colorado for the year 2006-2007.
Betty is a charter member of the Elbert County 4-H Leaders' Council, which was organized in the early 1970's. She served that group as Secretary and Treasurer for many years and as Treasurer for the past decade or so.
“Betty has lived by the 4-H pledge,” says retired, long-time Running Creek 4-H Club leader, Fran Clark. “I worked with Betty for 22 years, and we had great fun and a lot of long hours at county fair time. As a 4-H leader, she has been totally involved, always serving as an example for other leaders and 4-H members in the county. Her jobs have been many: chaperoning, cooking, sewing, main leader, seamstress, flipping hamburgers, awarding ribbons, and many other jobs that often have gone unnoticed. Betty is always smiling and has given to Elbert County 4-H and her community something that money can't buy. Congratulations!”
Betty’s service to Elbert County and its citizens is not limited to 4-H. She has been a member of the Kiowa Creek Community Church since 1968, where she has served as a deacon, elder, Sunday School teacher, and superintendent. She also is an active and long-time member of Kiowa’s Ladies Aid group. She has played the organ for Sunday services for many years, and has become a seasoned (and hilarious) member of the church’s annual melodrama troupe. Each fall, the melodrama attracts audiences from as far away as Denver and Colorado Springs, many hoping to see Betty in one of her type-cast roles.
Betty also has been a member of the KPTCC, Kiowa School Parent Teacher group, for the last fifty years. In that organization, she has helped with the Christmas treats, concession stand, and was a games manager and treasurer for bingos and raffles for many years. Betty served in the concession stand so long that the school finally named it after her!
When confronted about her years as a community volunteer, she says she has met lots of nice people, enjoyed most of it, learned a lot from the ones with whom she has worked, and it has helped to keep her going for the past fifty years!