The Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama 4-H Foundation dedicated an $8.4 million addition to the Alabama 4-H Center June 9. The project includes a youth dining area renovation sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation.
The Alabama 4-H Center is the state’s premiere environmental education program. Located on more than 260 acres in Columbiana on Lay Lake, the 4-H Center includes forests, riparian areas and a raptor center.
Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan helped lead expansion efforts as Alabama 4-H Foundation chair. Pinyan, a former Alabama 4-H Ambassador president, thanked donors and partners who were crucial in making the addition a reality.
“With the help of good people like you, we will continue to succeed,” Pinyan said during the dedication ceremony. “Thank you for making 4-H one of the best youth leadership programs in the state of Alabama.”
Expands 4-H Center’s Ability To Serve Others
Alabama Extension Director Mike Phillips said the expansion will dramatically increase the center’s ability to serve more young people and adults.
“We have added a world-class dining and culinary facility to an already outstanding facility,” Phillips said. “Alabama Extension hopes the center will be used by many organizations for activities including youth development, professional development or simply a place to relax and re-energize.”
The growing facility features a hotel, environmental conference center, science school, dining facilities, residential dorms and cabins. It is ranked among the top meeting and convention facilities in the Birmingham Metro area. The 4-H Center offers single-day learning programs, overnight environmental education experiences and 4-H camps. The science school offers 28 distinct programs, including forest ecosystems, aquatic environments, reptiles and amphibians, the world of insects and the story of birds.
Expanded Dining And Meeting Spaces
New food preparation areas and dining facilities will enhance young people’s experiences, said Molly Gregg, Alabama Extension’s assistant director for 4-H.
“The expanded kitchen is double the size of our old one,” Gregg said. “It will maximize efficiency allowing the facility to feed a full house of young people and host other patrons in a newly constructed dining area at the same time.”
Thanks to the Federation’s gift, the renovated youth dining area allows everyone to eat together.
“We are thrilled that multiple seating sessions for meals are a thing of the past,” she said.
A new dining hall, funded by a gift from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, provides additional meal and meeting space. A new conference room, supported by Shelby County, is adjacent to the new dining hall.
Improves Long-Term Sustainability
4-H Center Interim Director Kristy Abrams said these facilities increase the center’s long-term sustainability. The center opened in 1980.
“The center is better positioned to host conferences for businesses and organizations with our new conference room and adult dining room,” Abrams said. “These new spaces offer state-of-the-art technology where guests can meet face to face as well as bring participants in virtually.”
The 4-H Foundation launched its strategic plan in 2016, followed by a capital campaign in 2018.