Pledging Hands To Larger Service

Service to others is a mantra Matt Wenger takes seriously. A self-proclaimed “life-long 4-H’er,” Wenger has implemented the skills learned in his youth as an instrumental volunteer to multiple organizations.

Wenger (’00 agricultural and life sciences education), program coordinator for the Iowa State University Meat Laboratory, has a penchant for event management and organization. He coordinates all special and annual educational programs offered by the Meat Lab. Outside of office hours he spends much of his time serving the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program (Iowa 4-H) and Special Olympics Iowa.

“Matt gladly offers the time and energy needed to mentor individual students and, most importantly, continues mentorship and involvement with many of them through their college years and professional lives,” says Brenda Allen extension program specialist for Iowa 4-H, “We’re also fortunate he shares his time and expertise in event planning with major initiatives like the annual Iowa 4-H Youth Conference,”

Wenger has served as an adviser for the Iowa State 4-H Youth Council and a chaperone during the Iowa State Fair for nearly a decade.

“I’m a product of the Iowa 4-H program; it was a great experience for me with lessons that have continued in to my adult life. It’s fun to work with these youth, listen to their ideas and perspectives and see them receive some of the similar benefits that I did,” he says.

Wenger also is involved with Special Olympics Iowa, where he’s served as a volunteer for more than 13 years – most recently as co-chair of the Summer Games, held annually in May on Iowa State University campus.

“Matt is that special ‘go-to’ person when you have a project and need someone to step-up, create and understand the larger picture then oversee the details,” says Elizabeth Beck executive director of Heartland Senior Services in Ames, Iowa, and fellow Special Olympics Iowa volunteer.

According to Wenger, the impact of an organization like Special Olympics far outweighs the time commitment, or stress of organizing a large event like the Summer Games. “It’s all about the athletes,” he says, “You see them during the games, participating in events and winning medals. It’s one experience that makes their year.”

He recalls a church service in his hometown of Fairbank, Iowa, during which a Special Olympic athlete was recognized for winning multiple medals during last year’s Summer Games. He says the experience was moving and helps define the role of volunteerism in his life.

“Whether we’re talking about a great 4-H project or an amazing Special Olympics athlete, it is, and always will be about their accomplishment,” Wenger says.