EUGENE, Ore. - In three to five years, the Oregon State University Extension Service aims to get more than 1,000 youth enrolled in its 4-H clubs in Lane County, which are returning after a two-year absence.
"Our goal is to grow our enrollment back to and even exceed what we historically had in the past," said John Punches, a regional Extension administrator. "I think we will grow much bigger over time."
The 4-H youth development program closed in 2010, when about 400 youth were members of clubs, because the county's government withdrew its funding for Extension. But thanks to donations, Extension in Lane County has been training club leaders and recruiting students since October 2012.
"4-H is back," Punches said. "It's in a new format that will allow young people to get hands-on experience in everything from animals to art and marine science to machinery and food to photography - all while developing leadership skills and doing great things for the communities where they live."
Six general interest community 4-H clubs for students in grades 4-12 are open for enrollment in Eugene, Springfield and other parts of Lane County. Extension has trained 45 adult volunteers to lead the clubs and serve as mentors.
Annalisa Linn, 13, of Veneta, participated in 4-H two years ago. She signed up for the 4-H club in western Lane County in February and is looking forward to learning about photography, cake decorating and art. Two years ago, her family had to drive nearly two hours to Corvallis to participate in the 4-H program in Benton County.
"I'm just really happy it's back and I don't have to drive all the way to Benton," she said.
Members of each club will be able to decide what skills they want to learn. For example, one student could learn to show horses while another pupil in that same club learns to raise a puppy as a guide dog. Other topics could include woodworking, leather craft, public speaking, rocketry, crocheting, entomology and leadership development.
OSU Extension is also recruiting adult leaders with the aim of creating groups for Cloverbuds, a 4-H program for youth in kindergarten through third grade.
To lead 4-H in Lane County, Extension hired Kate Hammarback of Eugene, who comes with extensive experience in education and community organizing. Hammarback, who started Feb. 8, previously worked as a children's program teacher for the Oregon Research Institute. She will develop and establish clubs, recruit and train leaders, develop activities, collaborate with 4-H officials in neighboring counties and encourage kids to sign up for the clubs.
In the past several months, Extension officials and volunteers have raised more than $50,000 in donations and grants, which will fund the 4-H program in Lane County for its first year, Punches said. Retailer Coastal Farm and Ranch has pledged $100,000 in seed money for the first three years.
"Coastal's support has been instrumental in getting the 4-H program restarted in Lane County," Punches said.
In the long run, the Extension Service aims to sustain the program through enrollment fees, grants and more donations, Punches said.
For information about enrolling in 4-H as a student or volunteering as an adult, go to http://bit.ly/11DgZuK or call the OSU Extension Service in Lane County at 541-344-5043.
4-H is the largest out-of-school youth development program nationwide. Thousands of young people in kindergarten through 12th grade participate in OSU Extension's 4-H program each year in a variety of hands-on activities. The return of 4-H to Lane County means that OSU Extension now has a 4-H presence in every one of Oregon's 36 counties.
The following is a schedule of club meetings open to parents and youth:
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