As the people of Ukraine continue to struggle amid a brutal invasion of their country by neighboring Russia, some Tribland 4-H’ers are taking up not arms, but eggs to offer support.
A group of 4-H members, parents and leaders from Franklin and Kearney counties recently learned to make pysanky, or decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs. Now, they are offering their work through an online auction to raise money for rebuilding efforts in rural Ukraine.
Through Aug. 5, 16 of the ornately decorated pysanky will be up for sale in the online-only auction hosted by Rhynalds Auction and Realty of Minden.
The pysanky were decorated during a Kidz Kollege 4-H workshop in mid-June under the direction of Grace Adam of Wilcox, an award-winning practitioner of the venerated Ukrainian art form, who explained the process and showed those in attendance a number of the eggs she has completed herself.
Kidz Kollege is a series of 4-H project workshops conducted in Minden and Franklin over a week’s time. The Kearney and Franklin county 4-H programs are yoked for programming under the leadership of Rhonda Herrick, a Nebraska Extension youth development educator who serves as unit leader, or top extension administrator, in both counties.
“Grace Adam’s are absolutely astounding,” said Carrie Soucie of Upland, a Franklin County 4-H leader who took part in the workshop along with her daughter Annaclaire. “They’re so beautiful.”
Pysanky are real chicken eggs gathered on the farm and decorated while the yolk remains inside, making them heavier and easier to handle.
The decorating process consists of multiple cycles in which beeswax is loaded into a type of hot wax pen called a kistka, then melted over an open flame and drizzled onto the egg in a pattern the artist draws. After that, the egg is dyed.
That cycle is repeated time after time until the artist judges the pattern and color on the egg to be final. Then, the egg is heated to melt all the applied dry wax so it can be cleaned away, leaving only the lines behind.
Finally, the yolk is removed from the eggs and the eggs are coated with polyurethane to protect them.
The internet describes the pysanky art process as a form of batik, or wax-resist dyeing, which also is done to textiles.
Herrick said it’s specified that the eggs to be used come directly from the farm and not have undergone the kind of cleaning necessary to sell them in a grocery store. All the eggs the 4-H’ers used had white shells.
“I think some of ours were dyed three times,” she said.
The 4-H’ers’ waxing and dyeing was completed in about three hours. Then, Adam took the eggs home with her and completed the rest of the steps herself.
“That was a lot longer process,” Herrick said.
The 4-H’ers all made two pysanky — one to show in the fair and another to contribute to the online auction. All the adults present also got to decorate an egg.
While it’s obvious the 4-H’ers and adults are new to the art form and their work doesn’t compare to Adam’s, Herrick said, each egg is beautiful and unique in its own way.
“They’re not perfect, but they’re still beautiful,” she said. “That’s what’s cool about it, I think.”
Krystal Fickenscher, 11, of Axtell was one of the 4-H’ers to participate in the pysanky workshop.
She said those in attendance were given instructions to follow in decorating the first egg, but could diverge from that plan for the second egg.
“At the start it was kind of tricky because you have shaky hands and don’t really know what you’re doing,” said Krystal, who will be in sixth grade this fall at Axtell Community School and belongs to the Keene Kids 4-H Club in Kearney County. “But as you get used to it, it gets easier and you go faster.”
The 4-H’ers could enter their eggs as either a Design Decisions (home décor) project or as a citizenship cultural arts project in the fair. Krystal went the citizenship route, so her project includes a written report on the significance of pysanky eggs in Ukrainian culture — significance that predates Christianity or the celebration of Easter.
“The pysanky eggs used to symbolize nature’s rebirth,” she said. “But when Christianity was introduced to Ukraine, it was changed to symbolize the rebirth of man.”
An idea hatches, and God leads
Herrick said the idea for the pysanky project began to form in March, not long after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, when she was visiting a third-grade classroom at Wilcox-Hildreth Elementary School to do an embryology project with the students there.
In the classroom, Herrick noticed a beautifully decorated egg on display and learned it had been made by a student named Truly Adam, who is Grace Adam’s granddaughter.
After learning that Truly learned the art form from her grandmother and conferring with Carrie Soucie, a longtime 4-H leader in Franklin County, Herrick approached Grace Adam, who agreed to lead a workshop for 4-H’ers the following summer.
Still, Herrick was trying to figure out some way the project could help the people of Ukraine — and especially Ukrainian farmers, who have so much in common with the people of Franklin and Kearney counties.
“I just honestly felt like God was putting it on my heart to do this,” Herrick said.
The way became clear in May when Herrick attended a Nebraska Extension conference and heard a presentation by Roman Grynyshyn, a Ukrainian agribusinessman traveling across the United States to promote World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine, a charitable project he has started to help small-scale farmers back home rebuild their homes and regain productive capacity.
Ukraine long has been known as “the breadbasket of Europe,” but farmers and farms have been hit hard by the destruction of war.
Herrick spoke to Grynyshyn personally after the program, explained the pysanky project she had in mind, and told him his nonprofit sounded like the perfect place to donate any fundraising proceeds.
Finally, she told him of all the prayers being offered daily in south central Nebraska for the Ukrainian people.
“He took my hand and said (prayers) are what the soldiers said are getting them through,” Herrick said.
With the support of Rusty Rhynalds, owner of Rhynalds Auction and Realty, photographs of the eggs are posted to the business’ website at https://rhynaldsauction.com/kearney-and-franklin-county-4-hers-fundraiser/.
Bidding closes 7 p.m. Aug. 5. Winners then will pick up their purchases through the county extension offices. The eggs will come with a small holder the new owners could use to display them at home.
As of Friday morning, a combined $465 had been bid for the auction lots.
Soucie, who is in her 31st year as a 4-H leader, visits and shares programming ideas with Herrick regularly. She said she likes the idea of pushing 4-H’ers to step outside their comfort zone, develop new skills and grow in self-confidence along the way.
“I want the kids to not be scared to try new things,” she said. “I want them to grow and develop into the person God created them to be.”
At the same time, she loved the idea of encouraging the 4-H’ers to incorporate charity into their project and reflect on the needs of the Ukrainian people now reaping the bitter harvest of war.
Soucie said she wants the young people she works with to consider ways they can be a blessing to others.
“It was something I was excited about on many different levels,” Soucie said.
Herrick and Soucie agreed the 4-H’ers had a positive experience with the pysanky project and are excited about the ongoing auction.
Time will tell what the online sale generates.
“I have no idea how much money we’re going to raise,” Herrick said. “We’re just thrilled with the idea we are doing something.”
To learn more about World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine, visit https://www.wrru.org.
Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. has been a Hastings staple to shop for footwear since 1970.
With its roots beginning in Shenandoah, Iowa, Brown’s later expanded into several Nebraska cities including Hastings.
Sam Kroepel, owner/manager of the store in Hastings, grew up as a farmer in Shenandoah himself.
As he got older, he wanted to get into the retail business world.
His first management opportunity was at a store in Lincoln. He moved to Hastings in 2016.
“When I was done with farming I applied to work at a Brown’s store just in the winter time but the president of our company said there was an opportunity to be in the management side of things in our location in Lincoln,” Kroepel said. “I was an assistant manager and that is when this opportunity came up to become an owner of a store so that is what brought me to Hastings.”
Kroepel said that customers who come to his store can expect to receive the best treatment.
“You’ll always get greeted by someone, and be able to work with someone who is trained to get you the best shoe possible for what you’re using it for,” he said. “We always listen to our customer’s needs before rushing them into a pair of shoes that may not work.”
Shopping local to Kroepel means so much because it not only helps his business but other local businesses as well. In addition, local businesses help sponsor school and community events and activities.
“When you shop local, you’re not helping out a billionaire buy another yacht or another beach house,” he said. “We turn that money around to sponsor local sports teams and donate to local fundraisers, meaning a lot of it goes right back into your own community.”
Kroepel said there are many advantages to buying shoes or other products from a local store as opposed to online, including product appearance and quality and making sure that what you’re buying is comfortable and the right fit.
“We hear too many times of people getting the wrong thing when they order something online, and how much easier it is to see the product first, be able to try it on, etc.,” he said.
Kroepel said he is fortunate to have good employees who know how to take care of customers.
“We’ve got a really good group of people and our ability to listen to what people are needing has been keeping us open,” he said. “I think any business is as good as its people regardless of what product you could be selling.
“You can have the greatest product in the world but if you don’t have good people working for you, it doesn’t do you any good. You have to have the right people.”
MINDEN — For Josie Ivy, spending a summer exploring the job of a county extension youth development staff member has been a valuable opportunity to mull future career opportunities.
Ivy, who will be a sophomore this fall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, started work in mid-May as an intern in the Franklin and Kearney county offices of Nebraska Extension.
Since then, she’s been keeping the road hot between Franklin and Minden doing everything extension staff regulars do — preparing lessons and teaching 4-H workshops, getting ready for county fairs, tending to office duties, and even accompanying 4-H’ers to the county camp at the Harlan County Ag Center in Orleans.
Recently, Ivy was practically living on the Kearney County Fairgrounds, helping with all manner of tasks during the fair that wraped up with the livestock premium auction on Aug. 1. Earlier in July, she did the same thing at the Franklin County Fair.
She said she’s grateful for the wide variety of responsibilities she’s been given by her boss for the summer, Extension Educator Rhonda Herrick; and by Kim Randall, the office manager in Franklin, and Shelly Gibbins, the office manager in Minden.
“Rhonda and Kim and Shelly have all been great with letting me try all these new experiences and see what I like and don’t like about it,” Ivy said.
Readers from several Tribland communities may remember Ivy as a young girl. She grew up around Sutton, Doniphan and Blue Hill where her parents, Darren and Cassandra (Rose) Ivy, published the Clay County News, Doniphan Herald and Blue Hill Leader, respectively.
“We lived in Sutton until I was in first grade, then on a place between Doniphan and Hastings until before sixth grade,” she said.
The family relocated to eastern Nebraska and now lives in Firth. She graduated from Norris High School in 2021. Her sister Brooklyn will be a junior at Norris this fall, while her sister Aubrey will be in fifth grade.
Her parents still are in the newspaper business as publishers of the Voice News of Southeast Nebraska based in Hickman; the News Voice of Western Nebraska based in Morrill; the Douglas County Post-Gazette based in Elkhorn; and the Gretna Guide & News in Gretna.
Ivy has a double major in fisheries and wildlife and integrated science, with a minor in education.
She said she enjoys teaching but prefers doing so in an informal learning environment, so she thinks extension work or perhaps being a park ranger might be career options.
“I like to teach about the environment,” she said. “So this summer I wanted to see if extension fits into that. I wanted to see if that fit what I was thinking I wanted to do.”
She applied for the paid internship program through the office of the UNL Dean of Extension, identifying Franklin County as one of the places she might like to serve since she has relatives in the area.
She was hired and reported for work three days after finishing the spring semester at UNL. She’s living with relatives for the summer.
Her last day will be Aug. 12.
Herrick said Ivy has been doing a good job for the two counties this summer. She always tries to hire summer help, she said, but Ivy signed on through the Dean’s Office in Lincoln, which places interns all across the state.
“Really, the goal there is to provide an opportunity for young people to see how extension works and get a taste of whether this is something they would be interested in,” Herrick said. “It’s a great program.”
In rural counties, extension offices are small and everyone helps wherever needed, especially as fair time approaches, Herrick said. So many duties are less than glamorous.
Ivy said she especially enjoyed teaching and helping at Kidz Kollege, a series of 4-H workshops offered in Minden and Franklin June 13-17, and then helping the same 4-H’ers as they arrived on the fairgrounds a few weeks later to enter their exhibits.
While she’s still discerning a career path, Ivy said, she sees a place for herself working with youth — just not in a traditional classroom setting.
“It’s more teaching for the joy of it rather than teaching to a test score at the end,” she said.
For more information on the summer internship program visit https://extension.unl.edu/summer-internships/.