By Will Phillips
For Barbara Gregory, Extension has been more than just a job or a weekend distraction. It has been a home away from home that has allowed her to further satisfy her natural desire to help others. A nurse and EMT by trade, Gregory has spent the majority of her life helping people and she said that her involvement with Extension, specifically 4-H has simply given her more opportunities to do that.
“I hope I [made a difference]. I know [the 4-H kids] did for me. They always give something back to you,” Gregory said.
Gregory has been involved in pretty much every way possible during her time with the Henry County Extension Office, since former agent Jim Prewitt recruited her in the 1970s. “We’re in agriculture, so I started with [Prewitt],” Gregory said. “And then we had children, a son and a daughter that were in 4-H. And Steve Moore was hired almost immediately when our children started 4-H. So we got to be really good friends with him. So anything going on, we were always together.”
From 4-H to homemakers, to agriculture, Gregory has seen her share of involvement in everything that Extension has to offer. She has her favorite, though. “4-H,” she laughed. “[Because of] working with those children. You never, ever walked away without having a smile. And you look back to the Art Linkletter [television show] ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things.’ You always, always leave with a great feeling of, ‘I did something,’ you know? I made a child laugh, or taught them how to do something, or got them involved.”
At the root of her involvement, Gregory credits her drive to help people, saying that she became a nurse because of that desire and that she joined extension for the same reasons. She also said, though, that there’s more to it than that.
“You can have a drive, but the energy it turns off is phenomenal,” Gregory said. “And every day, you wake up and you say, ‘this is what I get to do today.’” She added that she never thought of what she had to do. Rather, she thought of what she got to do.
Gregory has been attending 4-H camp for 28 years. In all that time, she said that she’s learned that children never forget their mentors. “You may forget them,” she said. “But they’ll walk up to you and they’ll never forget you.”
Gregory also told a story of a boy named Eric, whom she met through 4-H camp. Eric was involved in the 1988 Carrollton Bus Crash that killed 27 people.
“I was one of the first ones on the scene that night,” Gregory recalled. “From my house to the interstate was, like, seven minutes…And not knowing any of these children, I had had [Eric] in 4-H at some point…He was burnt to a crisp. And I’m walking around, doing triage. And this person, who’s laying on the ground, charcoaled, looked over at me and said, ‘Mrs. Gregory. Hi, Mrs. Gregory.’ And I lost it. Of course, I didn’t know he was going to be on that bus. Of course not. And we’re in the middle of the night and he’s laying out on the road and he knows me. But like I said, children never forget you if you’re good to them.”
In addition to her work with 4-H, Gregory has also worked with the Homemakers Association and the agriculture aspect of Extension. “I was Vice President for several years of the county [Homemakers Association]. And I was president of our homemaker’s in Port Royal. Then, I was nominated for Farm Homemaker of the Year and got to go down to Atlanta.”
Gregory has also received numerous Extension and 4-H awards for her service. The way she sees it, though, the awards were never the important part, as she has left her awards at the Extension Office, instead of taking them to her home. She also encourages everyone to be involved in local Extension activities.
“It’s there, so why not take advantage of it? Learn from it,” Gregory said.
Over the next few weeks, the Henry County Local will be doing a series of bios of past and present Extension Agents to celebrate the upcoming centennial of the Henry County Extension Office.