4-H has been way of life for Maple City volunteer
Hobbins is an adult volunteer leader of one of Leelanau County’s largest 4-H youth education clubs, the “Gotta Lluva Cool Critter Club.”
Hobbins has served as a volunteer 4-H leader for 15 years, and her influence on local youngsters in 4-H goes far beyond her immediate family and their own critters.
“There are kids who have been in our club who graduated from high school, went off to college — and who just keep coming back to the fair every year to show animals and help out,” Hobbins said. “It’s just a great thing to see.”
Hobbins was in the thick of action at the fair earlier this month.
The word “Lluva” in the name of her 4-H club stems from the days when the club was especially for kids who were raising llamas — “Gotta Lluva Llama.” These days however the club includes all kind of kids and all kinds of critters, including alpacas, goats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, turkeys and more.
Hobbins got interested in llamas as a youngster when she worked as a babysitter for a Leelanau County family that raised them. When she married Joseph Hobbins in 1994, the family gave her two llamas as a wedding present. The Hobbins family now has 18 llamas they keep on their 10-acre parcel in Kasson Township, and on a relative’s neighboring acreage.
It’s not as if the whole Hobbins family is consumed with llamas, however. Two of her three children, 15 year-old Brittany and 10 year-old Brandon, were showing their prized turkeys at this year’s fair. Twelve year-old Anna Lea was showing off various arts and crafts this year in 4-H.
Renee Hobbins has also taken up some arts and crafts that, predictably, center on llamas. This year she was showing members of her own 4-H Club and others how to spin yarn from alpaca and llama fur, and weave it into various items. She and club members also hand-make saddles and saddlebags that can be used on llamas.
Most alpacas can be sheared for their fur once a year. Most llamas can be sheared every other year.
Hobbins has also been drawing in pastels on paper with the main subject, of course, llamas. Recently, one of her drawings made the cover of Michigan Llama magazine.
Hobbins has been a great help to Leelanau County 4-H youth educator Karin Stevens, who is new in her job with the Michigan State University Extension.
“When I was asked who would be a great example of a 4-H volunteer, Renee is the one who came immediately to mind,” Stevens said. “She has always been a willing hand for many of the events we have put on for 4-H — the Expo and 4-H Exploration Days at Michigan State University.”
During the most recent 4-H trip to MSU, Hobbins was the head chaperone for three busloads of kids who traveled to East Lansing and spent a couple of days there sampling a wide variety of 4-H activities.
“Being that I am new,” Stevens said, “Renee was the one person I would go to for any questions and clarifications. Everything on that trip went so smoothly. I appreciate all that she did to make it so successful.”
Hobbins noted that she’s been to numerous 4-H Exploration Days at Michigan State University with the Leelanau County contingent. In addition, she helps organize the annual Leelanau County 4-H Expo at Suttons Bay Public School. One of the highlights of the year for her own 4-H Club is the “LlamaFest” every Labor Day weekend on the campus of MSU.
When she’s not organizing trips and shows for her 4-H club and others, she’s holding regular club meetings throughout much of the year.
“Members of our club would like to meet every day if they could,” she said. “But we generally meet every two weeks between January and September each year. Around the beginning of the school year, the kids are too busy to meet, but they still have to take care of their animals and keep track of how they’re doing.”
After the New Year, preparations begin gearing up for the biggest event of the year for Leelanau County 4- H members, the Northwestern Michigan Fair which concluded last week.