WINNER - For months, brothers Clay and Ryan Sell spent afternoons sorting thousands of clothing items.

Twice per month, from January to May, the Sells - along with help from their fellow 4-H Clovervale Club members in Tripp County - sorted and donated items of clothing within their community of Winner and the surrounding area. By the end of the effort, the club collected 6,962 items and then distributed to 15 community organizations, shelters, non-profit organizations and state agencies to help local clothing needs.

"It was very exciting," said Laura Kahler, SDSU Extension 4-H youth program adviser for Gregory and Tripp counties. "They love to do community service projects just for the sake of doing it, but it was fun for them to see the cumulative numbers for their weeks of work."

The enormous gift was part of the South Dakota 4-H Youth Council's statewide community service project called Head-to-Toe that launched in 2016. Last week, the state 4-H announced the final number of donations, which totaled more than 19,000 items.

Tripp County donated the most items across the state and was awarded a plaque and $50 credit to help cover costs for 4-H needs.

Kahler said it wasn't just the Sell brothers who benefitted from the project, but 4-Hers across the state. All club members had the opportunity to determine within their community where a need was, and distribute items on their own.

"It was a really nice challenge in that they got to hear the stories and the appreciation from those places," she said.

And she's thankful for the Winner community for donating to the 4-H club. Because the community stepped up, Kahler said, it allowed the 4-H members to shine in service.

"It's just exciting to see kids wanting to do community service," Kahler said. "They spearheaded it, brought it up to our office and got their friends involved. That is great to see kids taking the reins on that and stepping up as leaders."

A worthwhile cause

For 14-year-old Ryan, it was a bit of a shock to see how many people in Tripp County needed clothing.

"We were very proud," Ryan said. "We even got to go to some shelters and witness who was receiving clothes."

Proud of their endeavours, the brothers also had fun while they worked. Clay, 12, said their good friend, Rowdy Moore, often accompanied them during the folding, sorting and distributing of clothes, which helped move the process along faster.

Despite other club members' involvement, at times it was just the Sells sorting clothing. But they didn't mind, according to their mother, Jill.

Jill also works as a regional manager for South Dakota Department of Social Services, and she saw the need for extra clothing firsthand.

"We thought it was a worthwhile cause and it was probably a lot more work than we thought it was going to be. But in the end, it was very beneficial and we helped a lot of people," Jill said. " ... I'm super proud they do that. I want them to learn to give back, and I want them to learn that there is less fortunate people in world than we are."