December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Local foundations’ contributions help secure Lorain County 4-H program

Julie Mackey of Ohio State University Extension and a 4-H adviser works with Extension intern Ashley Huffman to help set up for the Lorain County Fair. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Julie Mackey of Ohio State University Extension and a 4-H adviser works with Extension intern Ashley Huffman to help set up for the Lorain County Fair. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

The Lorain County 4-H program is secure through 2015 despite financial challenges.

Lorain County Ohio State University Extension Office director Minnie Taylor said the office, which operates the 4-H program, has solicited the help of the Community Foundation of Lorain County and the Nordson Corp. among others in an effort to seek creative funding solutions.

“Some of our local foundations have been wonderful in stepping up to help us come up with the dollars we need to keep the program running,” Taylor said.

Taylor said annual fees 4-H members pay – $10 per individual and $20 per group – also keep the office open. Donations of time and money from numerous volunteers, like the Friends of the Lorain County Junior Fair, also sustain the Lorain County 4-H program, Taylor said.

“The Lorain County 4-H program is not in danger of ceasing to exist any time soon,” Taylor said. “While it’s true we’ve experienced reductions at the county level, we have had success in building partnerships to get us through these challenging times.”

Taylor said although the 4-H program is functioning as usual for the moment, a short-term positive outlook doesn’t minimize the need for continued outreach to potential funding sources.

“Right now life is good,” Taylor said. “I’m sure it’s a short-term situation, but we’re going to continue to work at it to try to get back to where we should be.”

The Lorain County 4-H program has faced challenges since the county cut funding to the Ohio State University Extension Office. The office traditionally was funded with money from the county’s general fund, but county commissioners eliminated funding due to budgetary constraints.

The Lorain County 4-H program must generate $103,800, or 40 percent of total program funds, to operate annually. State and federal matching funds are doled out once local funding obligations are met.

This year, the program was saved with more than $28,000 from the Friends of the Lorain County Junior Fair, 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 in Oberlin, according to prior reports.

Friends of the Lorain County Junior Fair president Amanda Denes said she’s pleased the OSU Extension Office and 4-H program is secure for now.

“We’re well funded for this year’s 4-H and we’ll see where next year takes us when it comes,” Denes said.

Oberlin resident Ashley Huffman, 20, is a former 4-H member who now serves as a program adviser, as well as an intern at the OSU Extension Office. Hoffman, who was homeschooled, said the program was vital to forming friendships in her younger years.

“There were just so many opportunities that came from 4-H,” she said. “It’s helped me speak in front of people and I’ve used the skills I learned in speeches and projects. It doesn’t seem fair to cut a program that’s good for so many kids in the community. It’s an all around good program.”

Julie Nackey, 48, of Elyria Township, is a former 4-H member who now serves as 4-H youth development program assistant at the OSU Extension Office. Nackey said 4-H is a program that helps kids come out of their shells.

“I’ve seen some kids who are so shy and won’t even speak, who are now doing public speaking and stepping out into leadership positions,” Nackey said.

Stephen Elder, 20, of Penfield Township, was one of those kids. He said health problems prevented him from playing sports, and the 4-H program was a way for him to get involved with the community. Elder was last year’s Lorain County Fair King and this year he will be crowning the new king.

Additionally he said 4-H helped him secure his current position at a local feed store.

“Being a part of 4-H just teaches you so many things you won’t necessarily learn in school,” Elder said.

Taylor said 4-H members, and past members, value the program, benefit from its lessons and want to see it remain a visible part of LorainCounty.

“They’re learning skills that will last throughout the rest of their lives,” Taylor said. “If you ask any adult 4-H volunteer that was in 4-H as a young person why they came back, they’ll say they wanted to give back to a program that helped support them and made a difference in their lives.”

For more information on 4-H programs contact the Lorain County OSU Extension Office at 326-5851 or visit lorain.osu.edu.

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski. 

Pick up Sunday’s Chronicle-Telegram for the complete Lorain County Fair tab. Check out our live social media coverage from the fair. Our comprehensive Fair coverage can be found here