Alissa McKinney will be recognized as the 2019 Story County 4-H Alum of the Year at the 4-H Alumni Reunion, July 21, at Christy 4-H Hall in Nevada. McKinney is being recognized for her community service, career success and commitment to youth development.

McKinney is the senior director of development for Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. “There is no question,” McKinney says, “that 4-H prepared me for leading the fundraising efforts at Blank Children’s. Making goals, planning and evaluating what was learned are everyday parts of my job. Teamwork and leadership skills I learned as a 4-H officer and on County Council helps me oversee working with donors, planning events and supervising a team that each year raises between $3 and $5 million dollars for programs, capital needs and endowment.”

McKinney was a nine-year member of the New Albany Country Pioneer Club, now known as Country Pioneers. Her projects included sheep, pigs, foods, photography, clothing and citizenship. She credits 4-H with helping her gain confidence and learn to speak in front of a group through presentations to her club and in county contests.

One of McKinney’s favorite 4-H memories is looking up in the stands at the Story County Fair to see both sets of grandparents with the sheep trophies she and her brother Ryan had won. Her parents, Susan and Keith McKinney, were 4-H members and club leaders and her brother is currently a leader of the Country Pioneers, where his sons are members.

In addition to her family and club leaders, McKinney recognizes the positive influence of Shirley Pilgrim, former Story County youth program assistant. Pilgrim believed in teenagers and channeled them into leadership and service activities. McKinney participated in the Washington, D.C., Citizenship Focus trip as a member and while in college as a chaperone. “I made some of the best friends of my life, that continue to be close friends, in Story County 4-H,” she declares.

The Story County Fair was, as McKinney puts it, “one of my favorite weeks of the year and I always cried on the last day. It was so fun making friends with other 4-H’ers from across the county. I loved that we are three generations of Story County 4-H’ers in our family.”

“4-H was a big part of my growing up, so when my oldest daughter was old enough, I gave her the option of either joining 4-H in Des Moines where we live, or in Colo where my folks live. She decided she wanted to be in Story County in order to be in 4-H with her cousins,” McKinney explains. So first Emma and then daughter Isabel joined the Country Pioneers, showed sheep and goats, exhibited garden, photography, creative arts and other projects at the county and state fairs. McKinney became one of the club leaders, and for years drove from Des Moines to Colo for meetings and animal care, wholeheartedly supporting her girls and other club members in their 4-H involvement.

Now, with an empty nest, McKinney says she’s thinking about new ways to make a difference in her community. “Every day I witness the importance of giving back to the community,” she says. She has served actively at her church and on advisory boards for Mainstream Living in Ames, Cross Ministries, which focuses on the homeless, and Goodwill Foundation.

One thing she realized was how much kids want to give back and was able to oversee the creation of the Shining Stars Youth Giving Program at Blank Children’s Hospital. In fact, some Story County 4-H clubs have been recognized for their contributions. She sees value in building a sense of philanthropy and service among young people, instilling in them, as was for her in 4-H, the importance of “serving your community, your country and your world.”