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4-H needs money to stay in schools

LaGRANGE – Troup County’s 4-H program through the County Extension office is growing and expanding to more schools, but with that growth comes the need for more funds to keep the programs going – a tall order with a tight county budget.

The extension office went before the Troup County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to request more funding to help cover the cost of having the 4-H program in more than double the number of schools that it was in a few short years ago. The office receives roughly 60 percent of its funding from the county and about 40 percent from the University of Georgia.

“The main jist of where we had our biggest change was increasing the hours of our part time 4-H program assistant from 19 hours a week to 29 hours a week,” said County Extension Agent Brian Maddy. “This added an increase of $10,292, and this includes contributions to social security and TRS (the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia).”

According to Maddy, the increase in hours is necessary to make it possible for the assistant to have time to visit all 10 schools in the county who participate in the program.

“From 2015 to (now) we are now in 10 schools – coming up from four schools – and that is a 150 percent increase in the amount of schools that are participating in our 4-H program,” said Maddy. “… What happens is our 4H program targets fifth graders at each of the elementary schools, and as these fifth graders accelerate and go into sixth, seventh and eighth grade that moves them into the middle schools.”

The state 4-H director specified that Georgia 4-H programs should start at fifth grade, so simply moving to middle schools where there would be fewer locations to visit is not an option for the local program. The local office does have fund raisers to help fund camp programs, but even with that, they still need funds to pay the office’s four-person staff.

“The kids are responding to this which is really good,” said Maddy. “… We are seeing a lot with that enthusiasm. We have parents coming into the office, and we are now selling Vidalia onions for camp scholarships as well as the Krispy Kreme program for camp scholarships. The number of kids who are going to camp has increased.”

The 4-H program’s mission consists of “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development” according to the nonprofit’s website. That goal clearly lines up with local goals of finding positive, productive ways for youth to spend time, and with one of the highest growth rates in the state, Troup County’s 4-H program appears to be on a path of continued growth. That growth however is dependent on being able to afford to pay its employees.

The funding request to the county also included a 2 percent pay raise for the office’s four employees that would allow the county to match the pay raise from the University of Georgia.

To learn more about 4-H or to donate visit 4-h.org