By STEVEN MURREY
For 18-year-old Emily Betz, community service has always been a priority.
In July, the Frankton was named Madison County 4-H Queen, making history as the first to be crowned at queen at an all virtual pageant, a consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a year that’s forced the global population to adapt to a “new normal,” Betz recognizes that her reign as 4-H Queen has differed significantly from her predecessors.
“Normally, I’d attend in-person events, but because of COVID, I haven’t been able to,” Betz said. “I’ve been trying to post [on Facebook] on holidays to spread positivity.”
With a desire to give back but a lack of in-person events, Betz had to think outside of the box.
“As I began my journey as Madison County 4-H Queen, I knew I wanted to give back to the men and women who are fighting for our country overseas, specifically the military personnel from Madison County,” said Betz.
Betz said that the people in her life, including her family, would describe her as “completely patriotic.” She admitted that sometimes she goes “a little overboard” with American flag-themed items. Betz said her enthusiasm for the flag and her patriotism is rooted in what the flag represents.
“The American flag traces back to the past,” she said. “My relatives fought in World War II and Korea –– the flag represents the history of our country, and it represents the men and women fighting each day so we can be free.”
With the pandemic worsening across the country and the holidays approaching, Betz brainstormed ways to give back to the servicemen and women she so deeply respects. She began gathering names and addresses and set up a GoFundMe for her efforts, hoping to ship care packages to county residents representing the nation’s interests overseas.
“I didn’t expect it to be a big project,” she recalled. “I told myself if I could impact two or three Madison County soldiers, I’d be satisfied.”
It wasn’t long before Betz realized her project would grow larger than she’d anticipated. By contacting local recruiters and through social media, Betz found ten soldiers, eight from Madison County and two from Indiana. The donations gathered from her fundraising page covered the postal expenses and helped purchase enough food and hygiene items to send each soldier two boxes apiece. Each box weighed about 10 pounds, and the 20 packages contained approximately 1,600 items.
Though Betz undertook the project independently of her duties as 4-H Queen, she said her 10 years in the organization made the project possible.
“I learned so much,” said Betz. “Not only did 4-H teach me how to be a leader, but it also taught me how to give back to the community.”
Betz credits the organization for giving her the confidence and leadership skills she has today.
Emily Betz is a freshman at Butler University, where she is studying early childhood education. After college, Betz plans to become a first-grade teacher.