Indiana 4-H Alum, Volunteer Pledges $25,000 to Permanently Fund Accomplishment Scholarship

Published: July 9, 2012

Paulette LeCount-Dowden: A Dedicated Volunteer

Each summer for nearly forty years, Paulette LeCount-Dowden’s steadfast dedication to the Indiana 4‑H Fashion Revue has been on display. Paulette has been a facilitator and commentator for the Fashion Revue since 1973. So when Paulette was approached to pick her brain on potential donors who might be willing and able to contribute the $25,000 necessary to permanently fund the annual Fashion Revue and Sewing accomplishment scholarship, she left the meeting thinking she was the most logical person to take that step to secure the future of the scholarship.

“I ought to be the one to do this, to pay back all the good things that have happened to me because of 4‑H,” Paulette said.

The New Generation: 2012 Sewing/Fashion Revue Accomplishment Scholarship

The accomplishment scholarship, currently known as the Indiana 4‑H Sewing/Fashion Revue Accomplishment Scholarship, is awarded in March of each year. Scholarship recipients are invited to the Indiana 4‑H Congress banquet held the following November. Madalyn Schadler, from Warrick County, received the 2012 Sewing/Fashion Revue scholarship.

“Through my years in 4‑H, I have learned how a simple talent, such as sewing can affect my life in so many ways. I never thought that my talent and love for sewing would affect areas outside of just working on the project,” said Madalyn. “Working with a group, teaching others how to sew and assisting other organizations, the 4‑H sewing project has given me skills that have expanded my experience in the past, present and the future.”

Madalyn plans to use her scholarship for books and college tuition. Indiana 4‑H members are eligible for scholarships beginning in their sophomore year of high school through the year following their high school graduation.

A Decorated Career in 4‑H Led to Exciting Careers in Retail

Paulette’s own skills in clothing and fashion allowed her to make all her own clothes for a time, as well as provided a source of income throughout school as she sewed and altered other people’s clothes. Her interest in fashion and retailing led to a career in merchandising and management with L.S. Ayres, a “carriage trade” department store. That career took Paulette around the world to fashion capitols, such as New York City and Paris. After nearly twenty years, Paulette parted ways with the May Company, which had acquired L.S. Ayres in the 1990s. She finished her career on the operations side of retail as a District Manager of Retail with Cracker Barrel. Even though she officially retired six years ago, she is only beginning to think about grooming her own replacement at the annual Fashion Revue finals. She still does her own alterations.

Paulette has seen the fashion revue and clothing subjects change through the decades. There are now six categories that comprise the fashion revue competition: casual, formal, dress-up, coats, suits and a free choice category that allows for outfits that might not fit into another category, such as a soccer uniform or wedding gown. As a 10-year 4‑H member herself, she still has a few boxes of her most impressive ribbons. Her last achievement book, which took her to the National 4‑H Congress, was in leadership. “You learn responsibility, competitiveness, how to communicate and articulate your thoughts, how to speak in public,” she said, “as well as all the technical skills you learn of the project.”

Like many 4‑H projects, the clothing projects designate age- and skill-specific clothing items to be made for each year. For example, a female first year member might make an apron; the second year they make a skirt; the third year is a simple dress, etc. After nine or ten years, participants are using fancier and more difficult fabrics to work with and are doing their own tailoring.

A Bright Future for Today’s 4‑H Youth Members

When asked about the future opportunities for clothing/fashion revue project participants, Paulette describes a few different paths members might follow. One avenue is in retail, especially on the operations side, “there are millions of store opportunities,” she said. Paulette also said there is a window for those willing to relocate to bigger fashion markets, such as New York City or Los Angeles, “you’ll need to be flexible and adaptable – both skills you get in 4‑H.” She also describes an opportunity within Extension across the country. Each state has a 4‑H program, and whether someone wants to continue with fashion revue or another project, there is always a need for skilled volunteers and educators.

For her own path, Paulette acts as a narrator for the annual fashion revue at the Indiana State Fair. After judges narrow each category to 15 finalists, Paulette collects info about each of them to share their stories during the competition. The fashion revue finals at the Indiana State Fair requires participants to present entire outfits they have created themselves. While accessories can be purchased, all the garments worn by participants must be hand-sewn.

“Right now, the fashion revue project is very good. There was been renewed interest in fashion revue,” said Paulette, “there are good skills from youth and volunteers in the counties.”

See Paulette’s contribution in action at the 2012 Indiana State Fair. The preliminary competition, which will narrow down as many as 92 entrants in each category to 15 finalists, will be held on August 3rd, opening day of the fair. The competition will begin at 9am. The final show will be August 11th at 1pm.

If you are interested in ensuring the future of an accomplishment scholarship through an endowment, would like to learn more about honoring a loved one through a named scholarship, or are interested in learning more about planned giving, please call our office at (765) 494-8483 or email us at [email protected]

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