Future, present, and past members of the Delaware County Ohio State University Extension 4-H Youth Program celebrated 100 years of service to the youth of the county during a ceremony heSunday evening in the Coliseum at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
Leaders of the county 4-H program took the opportunity to kick off a fundraiser to raise $200,000 to add to the group’s endowment fund. The proceeds from the expanded endowment will help maintain the 4-H committee’s current work and pay for the construction of a plaza at the new Agriculture Building scheduled to be built at the fairgrounds.
After the reading of a Proclamation by state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, the alumni and members were treated to a brief history of the program from Ralph Jordan, who served as a 4-H agent for 28 years.
“4-H started in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902 in Springfield,” he said. “There are a few other states that claim that, but I think Ohio is the legitimate originator of 4-H.”
Jordan said 4-H started in Delaware County in 1919 with a pig club down in the Powell area. He said when he arrived in 1970, there was an extension committee providing the leadership for the program.
At that time, the county program was “sending a full camp of 250 people to 4-H camp,” he said. “Though we are a fairly wealthy county, there were some kids going to camp that I thought should have some assistance. We wanted to provide some camp scholarships.”
To raise the money, Jordan said the group decided to have a chicken barbecue.
“We served over 1,000 meals the first year to raise funds for our 4-H program,” he said. “The bottom line, after paying all the experiences, we made $161. It wasn’t a lot, but it was a start.”
Jordan said not long after that he learned of the Ohio 4-H Foundation Board where the group could contribute to an endowment.
“We could have a fund down there that they would manage and send the interest back to Delaware County for our programming,” he said.
However, Jordan said the group didn’t have the $20,000 to start the fund right away.
“By 1992, we had raised enough money to start our endowment,” he said. “I hope that it will continue to grow and help the 4-H members here in Delaware County.”
Speaking on the present, Melissa Stroupe, who is chair of the Delaware County 4-H Alumni Committee and a current advisor and 4-H alumni, said she is very honored to lead the Rabbits-N-Smores 4-H Club with membership over 60 people, including her own children.
“What we’re celebrating here began 100 years ago as 20 boys and a pig show,” she said. “We know that present-day Delaware County is one of the fastest-growing counties in all of Ohio and what an opportunity we have as a result.”
Stroupe said she sees the great potential and determination of the kids to learn and grow in order to make a difference today.
“Kids today have instant answers at the tip of their fingertips,” she said. “Kids today know the value of relationships and networking. Sure they might do things a little differently than we did, but thank goodness they do. That’s what we call progress.”
Stroupe said the kids today use their voices, take opportunities to learn, to build, and bring about change.
“How does 4-H today bring a county like Delaware with both agriculture and development, country kids, and city kids together?” she said. “We do that in traditional ways. We start with those clever little Cloverbuds as young as 5 years old. We introduce them to leadership by teaching them the 4-H pledge and having our teenagers teach them songs and activities on a hot June afternoon.”
Stroupe said as they watch the older members earn trophies, the little ones begin to aspire to earn their own awards at the fair. She said as they get older, the choices of hands-on projects only grow to challenge their imaginations.
“Maybe they want to show an animal or maybe they want to learn to sew, learn aerodynamics, rocketry, or maybe they get to code their first robot,” she said. “One thing is for sure. Our kids today, our 4-H kids grow up through this program with a sense of community, a sense of leadership, and a thirst for new knowledge.”
Cheryl Hagerty said the future of Delaware County’s 4-H program lies in expansion of membership, opportunities, and how programs are provided.
“4-H has always looked at what is happening and helped children to prepare for their future,” she said. “4-H can be that place where communication skills are built and coping skills are learned.”
Hagerty said that there will be support for traditional clubs, but maybe there will be nontraditional ways to reach children in the urban and suburban areas.
“As this county grows in population, so can the 4-H program,” she said, but prompted that “it will take resources.”
Hagerty said there is a need for volunteers and financial support.
“We need many hands to make the work light,” she said. “We ask for your help in growing the endowment fund and supporting the 4-H committee.”
For more information or to donate to the county 4-H program, visit https://delaware.osu.edu/give-now
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.