The Lorain County 4-H program is in jeopardy of disappearing after this year as funding for 2015 will no longer exist and the program’s main supporting group believes the chances of raising more than $100,000 by December look bleak.
The Friends of Lorain County Junior Fair have for years been the biggest cheerleader of the program, raising roughly $30,000 a year to support the group. But in 2015, that will not be enough to keep the program functioning and the Ohio State University Extension Office open. The extension office operates the program.
“We are, and always have been, very supportive of 4-H, and we don’t want to see the program go, but we are all getting worn out, and it’s time for some reinforcements,” said Jessika Fye, a Friends board member. “The reason we have put out the call on Facebook and are mailing letters to all our past supporters is because we don’t have enough help. With just 13 board members, we just don’t have the manpower to raise the kind of money we need for 2015.”
Traditionally, funding for the county extension office has come through the county general fund, which is controlled by the county commissioners. But in recent years, because of county budgetary constraints, commissioners have eliminated funding for the county extension office. The 4- H program in Ohio is directed through The Ohio State University but does not receive funding from the school.
Funds must be generated at the local level and, in the case of Lorain County, that comes out to $103,800 annually. The figure represents 40 percent of the program’s needs. Federal and state matching funds are available, but the first 40 percent must be raised locally.
This year, the program was saved with more than $28,000 from the Friends group, a $17,000 grant from the Lorain County Solid Waste District and the appropriation of $58,131.46 from the sale of the Green Acres Children’s Home. The largest portion, from Green Acres, was a one-time windfall.
Now, the group knows the weight of raising the money will fall to them.
“We are pretty much thinking it is doomed,” Roach said. “It took a lot of effort to get to the $28,000. The people who have supported us and 4-H are worn out and finding new sources of funding is difficult. The worst part is, without us raising that money, the state won’t give us anything.”
In Lorain County, there were about 1,400 kids enrolled in 4-H in 2013. A popular program in the more rural areas, it also has a strong following in the cities, including a program through Lorain Schools. Most people know 4-H as the venue in which young kids can bring projects to the Lorain County Fair.
Many of those children choose market animals as their projects and sell them through auction. However, the money from the sale of market animals goes back to each individual 4-H member, no the county group.
There are one-time fees to be in 4-H — $10 per child and $20 per club. The fees are unique to Lorain County. Most county 4-H programs do not have fees because they continue to receive financial support from the county government and the Friends group does not have the authority to raise the fees.
The program also provides numerous scholarship opportunities to graduating seniors with ties to 4-H. Many are awarded through endowments that cannot be used to support the 4-H program.
Roach said that has often caused confusion.
“If there is no 4-H, there is no endowment and those monies are just frozen,” she said.
So, with few avenues available to the group, it is hoping it can fundraise like never before.
But there is a catch. The 13-member Friends group may disband before Dec. 1 when the money would have to be raised.
A planning meeting has been scheduled for later this month. Yet if more people who are interested in joining the group don’t show up to the open meeting, the group will disband, leaving the 4-H program without a group to fundraise on its behalf. Fye said the goal is to at least double the number of volunteers.
“There is only so much 13 people can do. We need help to pull this off,” she said.
It will be a heartbreaking move for the group. All of the members have long ties to 4-H. Fye and Roach were in 4-H clubs from the time they were 5 until graduating from high school. They are now advisers of 4-H groups, Roach the First Class 4-Hers and Fye the Kids and Kritters Klub.
Want to help?
- Attend a meeting set for 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Farm Credit MidAmerica Office, 530 S. Main St., Oberlin. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.