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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

4-H community service project garners Lerblance national recognition

STILLWATER, Okla. – When Lexie Lerblance was just starting out in 4-H, she did not know a devastating health diagnosis for her mother, Ashley Lerblance, would turn into a community service project that would garner national recognition just a few years later.

But that is just what happened when the Pittsburg County 4-H’er recently was named the winner of the National 4-H Council Youth in Action Citizenship Pillar Award due to her development of The TLC Memorial Wig Closet in McAlester, Oklahoma.

Lexie, an eight-year veteran of 4-H and a member of the McAlester 4-H Club, was presented her award at National 4-H Council’s Legacy Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. This award is presented to a 4-H’er who embodies the life-changing impact of 4-H and who demonstrates personal growth, community impact and project excellence.

“The Wig Closet is something near and dear to my heart because of my mom’s cancer diagnosis in 2009,” Lexie said. “Due to her cancer treatments, she lost her hair.”

Ashley said she always had long hair, so losing it was very difficult.

“I felt like I’d lost my femininity. I was only 38 and losing my hair. I wasn’t ready for that journey,” Ashley said. “My first trip wig shopping was not a positive experience, nor what I needed personally. I knew nothing about wigs and I ended up coming home empty handed.”

Lexie said at the time, she did not fully understand what was happening with her mom and all of the emotions she was experiencing.

“I knew she was struggling with losing her hair and trying to find a wig, but I didn’t fully comprehend the whole situation,” she said.

This all took place during the time Lexie was becoming more active in the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program and had become a Pittsburg County 4-H Ambassador. Her county Extension educator, Greg Owen, said all of the Ambassadors should have a community service project.

“I encouraged her to find a community service project she was passionate about,” Owen said. “When you’re passionate about something, it has more meaning.”

Knowing the struggles her mom was facing, the pair came up with the idea of opening a wig closet. The TLC Memorial Wig Closet, named in honor of Lexie’s grandmother, Teresa Lane Compton, who passed away from cancer, officially opened in 2010. It moved around a bit before finding a permanent home in a room at The McAlester Regional Health Center. Because the hospital is open all hours, it makes it easy for clients to make appointments that fit their schedules.

All of the items in The Wig Closet are free and they have given away about 300 wigs, hats, scarves and turbans, valued at more than $13,000. Lexie spearheads fundraising events to purchase items and also works closely with the American Cancer Society.

“When women come to The Wig Closet, they have sad eyes. But when they leave, they’re happy,” Lexie said. “I’m so glad The Wig Closet is here to help these women. This inspires me to do even more community service so I can give back to my community.”

Ashley said The Wig Closet is about more than wigs and head coverings.

“We set up individual appointments for our clients, and not only do they try on various wigs, we give them information about scalp care and the anatomy of a wig,” Ashley said. “We also have a professional bra fitter who works with the women. It’s all about helping them feel good about themselves and providing them with needed information.”

Owen said he is proud of the work Lexie has done and gives her all the credit for being motivated to accomplish her goals.

“She can accomplish anything she wants to because she has a tremendous work ethic,” Owen said. “This project has had a huge impact in the McAlester area and has helped so many people.”

Donna Curry, who served as Lexie’s 4-H leader for six years, said it has been exciting to see Lexie flourish during her time in 4-H.

“Lexie has a passion for 4-H, she’s a strong spokesperson and an excellent role model for our younger 4-H’ers,” Curry said. “Her passion for The Wig Closet grew because she could see she was helping people. She’s very deserving of this national honor.”

Working with The TLC Memorial Wig Closet is not the only 4-H activity in which she participates. On the county level, she has served as president and 2nd vice president. She also has served as Southeast District representative for the State 4-H Leadership Council.

Other 4-H honors include serving as a delegate to both National 4-H Conference and National 4-H Congress, 2014 record book winner in the agriculture project, and she was named the 2011 Outstanding Junior 4-H Member. She also was the recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Scholarship.

Lexie was presented with a $5,000 scholarship, which she will use toward pursuing a degree in marketing at the University of Oklahoma this fall. In addition, the Pittsburg County 4-H program also received a $5,000 award.

“We plan to use some of the award money to help other 4-H’ers start their own community service projects,” Owen said. “This is just one way to continually give back and serve our community.”

He also said only two 4-H’ers from Oklahoma have ever won the national Youth in Action Award, and both are from Pittsburg County. Elisabeth Willis won the award three years ago.

“Winning this award truly is an amazing feeling. I’m honestly a little shocked, but I’m also proud of myself and who I’ve become,” Lexie said. “4-H has helped me grow into the person I am today.”

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CUTLINE INFORMATION: Lexie Lerblance stands in The TLC Memorial Wig Closet at the McAlester Regional Health Center. She started The Wig Closet in 2010 as a community service project through her 4-H work. She recently was named the National 4-H Council Youth in Action Citizenship Pillar Award for her service to her community. (Photo by Trisha Gedon, Agricultural Communications Services)

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Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)
trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000