2018 O'Brien County: Kris Keene

Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame Inductees

2018 O'Brien County: Kris Keene

 

Kris Keene came by her love of 4-H naturally. Both her parents were members, and later leaders, and all six of her siblings were also active participants. While much of their time in 4-H was outside, working with livestock, Kris could be found inside, at the sewing machine. With the guidance of her mother, who crafted many of their clothes, and her grandmother, a gifted seamstress, Kris honed her talents. 

Throughout her 4-H career, she participated in many clothing projects, including the fashion revue, back in the days when that involved staying in the state fair dorms and a trip downtown to the Younkers Tea Room. She excelled in those projects, bringing home plenty of state fair ribbons.

She took her love of sewing to college, where she studied home economics at Central College in Pella. After college, she managed – what else – Fabric and Textile Warehouse in Spencer until marriage to Dave Keene. The birth of her three children, Chad, Brent and Jenna, brought her to the farm, where she was an active partner in the family’s crop and livestock operation.

A constant through that time was being an active 4-H volunteer.  In 2004, she became the O’Brien County 4-H Program Coordinator. She put in countless hours “off the clock,” making posters, organizing events and thinking up new ways to engage youth in 4-H.

In 2010, Kris received the “Pride of Extension” award for her passionate promotion of the 4-H program in O’Brien County. Under her leadership, project areas grew and workshops were created to attract new members and further engage existing members. Her one-on-one involvement with members, and her focus on leadership touched hundreds of young people in her decade in extension.

Her kitchen was often filled with 4-H’ers baking up a storm for a Mother’s Day tea, and it was no surprise to see a half dozen sewing machines set up around her house for a daylong beginning sewing workshop for members. She organized tours of area ag businesses, showing and fitting workshops, and other opportunities for youth to expand their knowledge.

In 2011, nearly 35 years after her 4-H Citizenship experience, she returned to Washington, D.C. as a chaperone for the northwest Iowa contingent. The long bus trip, no doubt, felt much longer the last time around!

In 2014, Kris retired from extension to spend more time assisting her husband on the farm and with their business, Keene Outdoors, which constructs and markets portable hunting blind trailers for sportsmen. She also wanted to spend more time with her four grandchildren.

Leaving the job didn’t mean leaving 4-H. Kris has continued to be a 4-H leader, judge and dedicated volunteer. She is no doubt counting down until her first grandchild begins her 4-H career.

08/21/2018 3:50 PM
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