Thanks to a financial donation from Melaleuca, a versatile new 12,000-square-foot events center recently opened to benefit thousands of children in southeast Idaho. The “Melaleuca Events Center” will be used in support of events for the 4-H program, youth indoor sporting leagues, and community and nonprofit organizations. Melaleuca’s donation of $275,000, which was half the cost of the building, was matched by Bonneville County.
“Melaleuca and Frank VanderSloot have always been great supporters of 4-H for many years,” said Bonneville County Commissioner Bryon Reed, who was involved in the planning and execution of this project. “We sincerely appreciate this donation, which will help us build a new event center for our region’s youth.”
Investing in America’s youth
4-H teaches youth how to value an investment of time in something that grows. These projects test their ability to choose daily, consistent actions for long-term gain—a lesson that breeds success. This lesson provides them with the skills to “create positive change in their communities and in the world,” a 4-H motto.
This emphasis on character development and work ethic are traits that Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot values. He remembers the lessons he gained by participating in the 4-H program as a young boy.
“Kids learn to work at a young age, learn responsibility and learn character,” Frank said. “They learn how to take a 1,000-pound steer and tame him from being wild down to where they’re gentle. This is a learning program for kids that they just can’t learn from an iPad.”
Born into a poor farming family, Frank spent his childhood in northern Idaho chopping wood, feeding chickens and milking cows. By age 12, he was running the family’s 80-acre farm during the weekdays, while his father worked on the railroad. He paid his way through college by cleaning a laundromat. One of Frank’s proudest achievements is graduating from college without any debt.
Many of the youth take the money from the annual sales to add to their college funds and learn about money management.
“I’m so excited about this, I can’t even tell you,” Frank said. “Our kids are raised today by their cellphones, their iPads (and) virtual reality. They never get out to see the real thing. And in 4-H, kids get to get out there in the real world and do real things.”
Melaleuca: A long-time supporter of youth development
Long before pledging to pay for half of the new building, Melaleuca has enthusiastically supported a variety of youth development programs.
Melaleuca representatives consistently attend 4-H auctions in east Idaho and purchase animals that youth have spent so much time raising. The company has donated over $260,000 throughout the years to buy cows, hogs, goats, sheep and rabbits, raised by hundreds of hard-working children.
Similarly, Melaleuca has donated millions to support youth participating in the Boy Scouts of America, while Frank and Belinda VanderSloot dedicated $2 million toward repairing a historic schoolhouse before donating its use for public education. Additionally, Melaleuca has contributed millions toward providing scholarships and improving educational opportunities for K-12 students.
To complement Melaleuca’s contribution toward the new event center, many 4-H youth used their profits to support funding the new 4-H facilities. They wanted to show unity toward the project and thank Melaleuca for its contribution.
“We’ve had a lot of community support,” says Commissioner Reed. “Along with the largest donations, we’ve had a lot of small donations over the past two years since we announced we were doing this. It’s been really heartwarming that when a 4-H’er sells his or her market animal at the sale that they turn around and say to the crowd that they are donating $25 to the new fairgrounds.”