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Dabbling for a day in 4-H

Siblings Eldon Tessman and Elaine Christiansen support local 4-H projects through generous endowment fund.

Eldon Tessman and Elaine Christiansen
Sibling donors who helped expand My Day to Dabble in Carver County, Elaine Christiansen and Eldon Tessman, grew up on a Brooklyn Park potato farm.

The Pleasant Valley 4-H Club of Carver County wanted to open their annual “My Day to Dabble” to all young people in their community. Eighteen one-hour sessions typically offer the 4-H’ers a variety of topics to choose from to explore their interests in the company of others.

“At a 4-H volunteer training session, we learned there are a lot of youth in Carver County who are not involved in any organized activities in church, school or outside of school,” says Chellie Albers, a 4-H volunteer.

My Day to Dabble seemed like the perfect introduction to 4-H, but opening it up to youth who were not already in the program was not in the usual budget. Albers, with youth member Grace Larson of Cologne, wrote a proposal for a Helping Hands Grant through University of Minnesota Extension. Their club was awarded $500 from a fund created by donors Eldon Tessman and Elaine Christiansen.

Tessman and Christiansen are brother and sister alumni who grew up on a potato farm in Brooklyn Park. They support 4-H youth, as well as other University of Minnesota initiatives through the proceeds of a generous endowment fund. “We like to give where we believe it will really make a difference,” says Tessman.

Coincidentally, one of several learning activities that day was the “spudmato” or “ketchup and fries” plant—a potato and tomato grown together.

They credit their 4-H club, led by a committed volunteer, named Ellen M. Bohanon, for giving them the support they needed after their father was killed in a tragic hunting accident when they were 14 and 12. They had not been in 4-H before that, and their grieving mother thought it would be good for them.

“We’ve been a team ever since,” says Christiansen. “Together, we saw first-hand the dedication and commitment of local 4-H club leaders and parents and we want to give them what they need. They already give so much of themselves.”

Many 4-H alumni and friends support Helping Hands grants each year. Contact the Extension development office at (612) 624-7971 or johns350@umn.edu to learn how you can support similar needs.

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