Williamson County 4-H’ers are steering food donations in the right direction through the Pay it Forward initiative with the Williamson County Fair board.

The initiative allows families to bring canned goods, food items or items on GraceWorks Ministries’ Critical Needs list in lieu of admission. Then, as part of the evening, 4-H puts on a Livestock Expo Auction following the 4-H Livestock Expo Parade of Champions. As part of the Fair’s 4-H Livestock Auction, students from the Williamson County program offer goats, lambs and steers they raised throughout the year for purchase by members of the community.

Cigna HealthCare, one of the fair’s sponsors, teamed up with a local account executive, Tim Cullen, to purchase three of the market steers. Then, the steers were donated to organizations that serve those in need, including the Nashville Rescue Mission and Room in the Inn.

Doug Berny, an extension agent in Williamson County, has seen firsthand how the initiative serves both students and the community.

“My daughter was able to not only share in the experience of caring for and raising the animal but was also given the opportunity to strap on an apron and serve that beef to residents of Room in the Inn,” Berny explains. “She came away from that experience with a much bigger – and better – view of her role and responsibility in the community.”

In addition to canned food donations, each steer donated provides up to 2,500 meals for these organizations, which is crucial for serving local residents struggling with hunger during winter months when protein supplies are low.

For Berny and his family, giving back plays an integral part in creating a thriving community.

“Students who participate learn life skills,” Berny explains. “Families are drawn together to work in these projects, building healthier relationships and a strong work ethic. When the community comes along to support these efforts, the generosity has a broader community impact.”

In 2018, the Williamson County Fair was able to bring in nearly 11,000 pounds of donations for food-insecure residents in Williamson County.

This year’s Pay it Forward night will take place on Monday, Aug. 5. For more information, contact Doug Berny or visit williamsoncountyfair.org.