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story.lead_photo.caption A group of 4-H participants from across Moniteau County — Kristyn Wetzig, Kierstyn Lawson, Emma Baepler, Brayden Hallford and Madison McCord — have taken the lead in planning the 4-H Day of Service event for the past year. That event, a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, is now on the horizon. Photo by Austin Hornbostel / California Democrat.

After a year of planning, the efforts of a group of 4-H members from across Moniteau County have nearly come to fruition.

The county 4-H Day of Service committee met Sunday evening as it worked to pin down final details for the culmination of their past year of work — a commemorative event in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, set to take place Saturday, Sept. 11 at Latham Memorial Family Park's newly-completed veterans memorial.

With the assistance of some adult volunteers with 4-H, a group of five youths — Kristyn Wetzig, 16, of McGirk; Emma Baepler, 16, of Jamestown; Brayden Hallford, 14, of High Point; and Kierstyn Lawson, 15, and Madison McCord, 17, both of California — have taken the lead in putting all of the puzzle pieces in place to ultimately pull off next week's event.

That process started, the group explained Sunday evening, with the application for and successful receipt of a 4-H Day of Service grant to help fund their efforts. Looking back now, it feels like they started planning "forever" ago, Hallford said earlier this week.

"But now it's getting more real because it's getting closer," Baepler said.

There was a sense of excitement among the group that the ideas they'd been molding were about to become concrete Sunday evening, as well as the prospect of the county-wide event drawing plenty of citizens from throughout Moniteau County.

There was no shortage of items still on the list to nail down, though, as they discussed their next steps for the coming week and a half. The group discussed everything from a list of thank you notes to be dispersed to everyone who'd helped them along the way to how much food to plan for to feed guests the day of, with donations going to California Progress, Inc. for the ongoing park project.

Another big part of the quintet's work during the past year was each member's efforts to disseminate information about their plans to groups and organizations around the county. That started with asking CPI for permission to host the event at the veterans memorial, which was still very much a work in progress when the group first approached CPI's board with its request. Though its future completion and readiness to host such an event was still up in the air earlier this year, the group said it thought it would make for the perfect venue.

"Because it was ... made for military (veterans)," Wetzig said.

And the grant was specifically geared toward 4-H's Sept. 11 Day of Service, Baepler said, meaning it should be used to honor veterans and the occasion. The event could also serve as a way of simultaneously "welcoming" the new park to the community, Hallford added.

The group has certainly kept busy, with members appearing at city council meetings, school sporting events, and a myriad of other community events to ask for support. Such support hasn't been hard to come by, the group said, as the response has been positive across the board.

The group also agreed, though, that this part of the process has presented its own share of challenges nonetheless. A visit to a city council meeting, for example, resulted in a question about whether the group had asked the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office for permission to block off roads around the park, thus adding another item to the to-do list.

"The work never stops," Lawson said.

Challenges aside, the group said it's been a good experience as elements have slowly fallen into place. As of Sunday, the next big item on the group's list of preparations was finalizing their script for the ceremony. Speaking to organizations throughout the past year has been good practice, though, and the group also agreed that this was precisely the kind of experience that 4-H participants should be getting when they join — opportunities to mold their skills in leadership and public speaking.

The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at Latham Memorial Family Park, with a free-will donation meal to follow from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

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