Native couple donates handmade Steamboat quilt to boost cash for wool judging packages

When Whit Stewart, Sheep Specialist at the University of Wyoming (UW) Extension, spoke to longtime friends Russell and Kathy Bell about budget cuts in his sheep evaluation program, he was noticeably concerned.

But that didn’t take long.

The Bells have long been hearty 4-H supporters in Campbell County, and Russell continues to serve as a volunteer trainer for wool juries.

“(He) will probably do it by the day he dies,” smiled Kathy. “He just absolutely loves it. He loves helping people and when he found out that Whit’s budget had been cut he said, “Let’s find out how we can make it easier for Whit.”

Russell’s idea was to make a handcrafted UW Steamboat quilt and give it away to raise money for UW and 4-H wool grading programs. Kathy put this off at first knowing it would be time consuming and fall was her busy season on the ranch.

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But they both knew that if they could help, according to Johnathan Despain, 4-H program coordinator at UW Extension State, they would.

“Next, I know we have a beautiful quilt on our hands that we can use to raise money for college and 4-H wool grading programs,” said Whit. “It sounds cheesy, but I love how this embodies the kind of people we can work with. They identify a challenge, they are partners with us and they make it possible. “

The quilt took about three weeks to make, Kathy said, adding that the project was fueled by her passion and support for wool grading by the state and Campbell County.

This passion and drive from the bells encouraged Whit to be primarily concerned with wool assessment. He hit the bells early in his career in Campbell County.

“You are the reason I got into wool judgments,” he said. “It was this experience that made it possible for me to do my doctorate. Funding to coach a wool judging team in New Mexico, and it has flourished since then. “

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Now the program has expanded in number and there are more colleges looking to evaluate college wool than ever before, said Whit, thanking the Bells for their continued support.

Kathy’s king-size creation is on display across the state. As of March 26, it was at its first stop at the Converse County Bank in Douglas. On April 5th, it will be on display at the First National Bank in downtown Gillette.

According to a UW press release, raffle tickets can be purchased in any County Extension Office by a UW Wolljury team member or a Wolljuror 4-H member. Tickets are $ 20 each or $ 7 for $ 100. The winning ticket will be drawn at the state RAM sale in Douglas in September.

The money raised will be used to help counties across the state get exercise wool.

Ryan Lewallen contributed to this story.