This week’s good neighbor is also a community leader, and while she may be embarrassed to be called it, she is a true servant leader. She has been kindly and compassionately caring for families, leading organizations throughout our region, and was nominated Delaware County’s 2012 person of the year.
Blackford County’s WIC program is joined with 6 other East Central Indiana counties under the leadership of Amanda Slentz, WIC Coordinator. For 15 years now she’s faithfully guided our region’s program. Graduating as a registered Dietitian, her passion was to focus on community work within her field. At first, Amanda looked toward the Purdue extension office but by the time she finished her master’s degree there was a hiring freeze. Once the community position she had long hoped to fill was open, she had a family. WIC was a good choice for her as it didn’t require long evenings full of meetings. It allowed her to use her skills and talents and raise her young family. “What I like most is helping people. People will compare us to food stamps but we’re a much different program!” WIC, at it’s heart, is educational. And where is she most proud of our WIC program? “Probably the breastfeeding part. We’re big breastfeeding supporters and actually Indiana WIC has a really strong breastfeeding system. A lot of states are looking toward us as an example with our peer counseling program... Over 70% of our moms initiate breastfeeding in Blackford county!”
But that isn’t Amanda’s only hat. 6 years ago she plotted a course for an opportunity store that would fill in basic needs for families who qualify for WIC and so Silver Linings was born. The currency is in the form of cards that you earn and the store is the second Saturday of every month in the basement of the Hartford City First Presbyterian Church. Upon walking in you see tables full of new and gently used baby gear, baby furniture, personal items, diapers, and racks upon racks of new and good condition used clothing. Currently her funding comes from Women of Worth, the Blackford County Community Foundation, Sororities and the Presbyterian Church. But where do all of those racks of new clothes come from? A few are from sweet volunteers and donors but the vast majority is hand picked by Amanda in her personal time using their grant resources. No one pays her for her time and her volunteers, while faithful, are small in number. Her store is successful and a great resource to so many in our community. When asked where she thinks the success comes from, “People are so appreciative and polite. I think it doesn’t feel like a “hand out.” It’s a store. I’m really picky about what goes out on the shelves so it feels nice to come in.”
Her third public hat in the community is her involvement in the 4H community. She’s Secretary of the Fair Board, the entertainment chair, and her husband is the president. 4H is made up of clubs centered around interests like beef, dance, tractors, homemaking and the newly added Shooting Sports which instructs in safety and marksmanship. Opportunities for involvement start in Kindergarten-2nd grade with Mini 4H. Children, partnered with an older youth or adult, can participate in 4H by creating projects which can be entered in the fair. However, there are no meetings for Mini 4H. Starting in 3rd grade and running through Senior year is regular 4H which is made up of specific clubs such as the Dog Club and Dance Club and then the General Club where you can invent your own projects. “We have such a tight group of volunteers that are friends. I’ve always felt very strongly about 4H. You can do everything from sewing or cooking to building a rocket. You get to develop a lot of leadership skills: the kids have their own boards with councils and a president. There’s camps, trips and science workshops. The general club is very open and the specific clubs, for example with the Beef Club, they ask the kids what they want to learn about... They’ll often meet at someone’s house who has a beef and go out to the barn and learn about grooming, tying the knot for harnessing and parts of the beef.” With all of its benefits, you’d expect 4H to be costly but there’s only a yearly state cost of $15 to participate! There are some intrinsic costs if you’re going to show animals but many clubs and projects may only ask for a small amount to help pay for snacks or trips.
Amanda belonged to 4H all 10 years in her youth and has remained dedicated through her adulthood. Her lifelong involvement shows up in her diplomatic leadership, dedication to community service, educating others in healthy living and her loyalty to the organizations in which she serves. She has taken the 4H’s to heart and is an invaluable gift to our community.
Thank you, Amanda.