Cheryl Poppell's role as a University of Georgia Extension agent is similar to a home missionary. The wife of a local preacher and mother of three boys, Poppell cherishes the responsibilities that come with being the Toombs County 4-H agent and County Extension Coordinator.
"She feels it is her mission to take care of Toombs County, and that is exactly what she does," said Joann Milam, southeast district director for UGA Extension.
This year marks Poppell's 14th year as a UGA Extension agent, but she's been part of 4-H for much longer. She was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA in her home state of Tennessee. During her time in Toombs County, participation has increased, programs have been added and lives have been touched.
"I knew I wanted to do something to help people and I always enjoyed 4-H," she said. "I love making a difference, whether it is big or small. When you have made a difference in a child's life, it is a great feeling. That's the benefit of sticking with Extension and doing your best."
One project Poppell takes very seriously is the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety course Toombs County 4-H offers. The program was started through a grant from the National 4-H Council in 2009. Children are taught the importance of wearing helmets and other ATV safety tips.
The county's shooting teams also began under Poppell's leadership. Fifteen years ago, Toombs County 4-H didn't have a shooting program. Now there are almost 50 students on the shotgun team and nearly 30 on the BB team.
"It's neat to know that even if a child's life didn't take the path you hope it did, you gave them a chance and made good moments for them," Poppell said.
Poppell has one of the most well-rounded 4-H programs in Georgia, according to Milam. Toombs County has nearly 1,000 4-H'ers. "She welcomes all students, no matter their background, and she brings out the best in them," Milam said.
Toombs County hosts various events throughout the year, which adds to Poppell's busy schedule. Milam describes Poppell as a "jack of all trades."
"She always has a smile on her face while she gets the job done. She takes care of everything," Milam said. "And she has so many commitments to her community and church. She's always on the go, but she never complains."
Her hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. Poppell is a two-time winner of the William H. Booth Award, an annual honor given to one 4-H agent from each Extension district.
Visit the UGA Extension Toombs County website for more information about local programs.
Published February 9, 2015
"I love making a difference, whether it is big or small. When you have made a difference in a child's life, it is a great feeling. That's the benefit of sticking with Extension and doing your best."
- Cheryl Poppell, Toombs County 4-H Agent