1:47 p.m., Aug. 10, 2009----On Sunday, July 26, family and friends gathered at the Delaware State Fair to remember the hard work and dedication of Marion MacDonald and Joy Sparks, lifelong Extension agents and volunteers. In honor of their many contributions to Delaware 4-H, memorial plaques were dedicated to both outstanding women.
At noon, a crowd gathered in the lobby of the 4-H building as kind words were shared by those who knew Ms. MacDonald and Ms. Sparks.
“We have lost two giants in Delaware 4-H,” LeRoy Betts, president of the Delaware State Fair, said.
Dennis Shaffer, president of the 4-H Foundation, added, “I would not be where I am in my personal and professional life or part of the foundation without these two ladies.”
In addition to the adjacent remembrance plaques that now stand in the 4-H building, Ms. Sparks also was honored with a perpetual plaque. This plaque signifies an award that will be given to one 4-H member each year for exhibiting outstanding qualities in the areas of leadership, community service and 4-H.
Joy Sparks served as the State 4-H Program Leader for the Delaware 4-H Program since 1993. Before serving in this role, she served in various roles of state extension specialist, area 4-H agent, New Castle County 4-H agent and assistant county Extension agent in New Castle.
During her work in 4-H, she was the driving force helping Delaware 4-H become a program emulated by many other states. Through her leadership and efforts, the Delaware 4-H program reaches more than 69,000 youth on an annual basis, which represents over a 45 percent market share -- a level more than double that of any other state 4-H program.
“Our family is very pleased that Joy was honored for her many contributions to the Delaware State Fair,” said Donald Sparks, her husband and the S. Hallock du Pont Chair of UD's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “The fair was an important part of her life.”
Marion MacDonald began her career in Cooperative Extension in the early 1950s, as a home demonstration agent in Oregon. In 1953, she became a 4-H agent for Kent County. Her career spanned 33 years and under her leadership, 4-H in Kent grew into a vigorous, well-organized group with varied programs that reached thousands of youths. She created many opportunities to help 4-Hers develop life skills through useful, educational and fun activities.
Ms. MacDonald served as a member of the Delaware State Fair board since 1976. She worked hundreds of hours each year volunteering in the State Fair office, helping with a variety of programs, particularly 4-H. In 2007, she was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame, which annually recognizes those people who have made a significant contribution to 4-H.