Brittney Kimber, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Alabama 4-H has experienced record-breaking enrollment for several years. Now with almost 180,000 young people involved in 4-H, the program is so large that students sometimes must wait to participate in science and camping programs at the 4-H Center located south of Birmingham.
To respond to these challenges, the Alabama 4-H Foundation today announced “The Center Of It All,” a capital campaign for Alabama 4-H. It focuses on expanding the infrastructure at the 4-H Center to help the program fulfill its mission of providing hands-on learning experiences for all Alabama youth.
Molly Gregg, Alabama Cooperative Extension System assistant director for 4-H explained that for the fourth consecutive year, 4-H members are being put on a wait-list to attend signature overnight programs and events at the 4-H Center. She said there is not enough facility space to accommodate multiple groups at the same time.
“Right now, we’ve reached our capacity at camp,” Gregg said. “It’s hard as a youth development professional to think there are children who cannot come to camp because we don’t have the room for them. This campaign addresses this need so that every interested child in Alabama can participate.”
More than 76% of the campaign’s $9.9 million goal has been raised, but public support is needed to raise the $2.5 million to reach that goal. The Alabama 4-H Foundation needs the public’s support to meet that goal and ensure a spot for everyone at the 4-H Center.
“Generous donations to the 4-H Foundation capital campaign will help shape the future leaders of Alabama,” said Gary Lemme, Alabama Extension director. “It is an important investment in both young people’s and the entire state’s future.”
Recently, Alabama 4-H received a gift of the 108 acres where the 4-H Center is located. With this additional land, 4-H will construct new dining facilities and dormitories on the current site.
Three projects will provide more opportunities for Alabama 4-H young people and help build sustainable revenue to support programs.
- Project 1, Expanded Dining and New Kitchen: The Alabama 4-H Center can currently serve only 185 people at a meal. To maximize efficiency in dining for both group seating and food preparation, this addition will expand seating availability by 65%. This means the 4-H Center can increase the number of youth who benefit from center programs as well as improve food-service efficiency.
- Project 2, New Dormitories: More young people want to attend 4-H Camp than the facility can currently accommodate. New dormitories would allow more youth to have an opportunity for a sleep-away experience.
- Project 3, Alabama 4-H Fund for Excellence: The Alabama 4-H Foundation’s Fund for Excellence is an unrestricted, discretionary resource. Gifts to this fund will give the foundation the capacity to launch special initiatives, meet pressing 4-H needs as they arise, provide scholarship support, and capitalize on emerging opportunities to strengthen 4-H programs. Examples include youth state and national travel, event and registration fees, camp scholarships, and college and trade school scholarships.
The growth of Alabama 4-H reflects its commitment to empowering young people. Last year, more than 100 Alabama schools visited the 4-H Center and participated in overnight environmental education programs. In addition, the Alabama 4-H Science School hosted 22,000 students through residential outdoor environmental education, summer camp, and off-site outreach programs.
“4-H develops young people who are going to be leaders and determine the success of their county, state, country, and, in some cases, the world,” said Boyd Christenberry, campaign honorary chair.
Looking Toward The Future
Tomorrow’s leaders are shaped by the opportunities available to them as young people. Alabama 4-H and the Alabama 4-H Foundation are committed to creating true leaders with the skills to guide their communities.
“4-H is different than any other youth organization,” said Paul Pinyan, executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation and chairman of the Alabama 4-H Foundation. “There are no dues, and you can specialize in your individual project or interest and explore careers that you may want to learn more about earlier on in life that will shape your path for the future.”