Tennessee 4-H wouldn’t see its great success without the support of so many generous donors. William “Bear” Stephenson shares his opinions on giving to the beloved organization.
“4-H is a program that molded me in my childhood,” Stephenson says. “4-H leaders, club meetings, camps and activities were things that helped build my self-confidence, ability to make friends and develop into a well-rounded young adult.”
Bear Stephenson grew up on his family farm in Anderson County. Growing up, Stephenson loved raising chickens, cattle, pigs, honey bees and more. At 10 years old, he began his 4-H project of Poultry with 120 chicks, and he proudly reported all 120 survived and grew into adults. Outside his project, Stephenson enjoyed taking part in the baking contests, public speaking and leadership opportunities.
Highlights of his 4-H career include serving as Tennessee 4-H State Council President, State Poultry winner, National Congress Delegate and National Poultry winner.
Now, Stephenson owns and operates his own business, Stephenson Realty and Auction Company. He also serves on the Tennessee 4-H Foundation Board of Directors and shares the importance of giving back to the organization while we can.
“I have been blessed because of my company,” Stephenson says. “I thought ‘What am I going to do with all my money when I die?’ I don’t have relatives to give it to, so I should start giving it away now because I can’t take it with me.”
Stephenson started the Stephenson Family Endowment in Anderson County to help support his local program and honor his passed mother, father and brother who were also active in 4-H. Now the county has those funds to buy awards, registration fees, conference attendance and materials for 4-H programs.
“I would encourage others to go ahead and make the contribution themselves,” Stephenson says. “because the good you do comes back to you. Make 4-H part of your legacy and leave a legacy. We’re not going to be here forever, so what we leave behind is really the only thing that really matters.”