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New agent encouraged by 4-H program

November 21, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

BARDANE, W.Va. - Jeff Himes has worked in university extension programs in the past, but says he has never seen so much local involvement in the 4-H program as he has in Jefferson County.

Himes was hired Sept. 3 to head up the county's 4-H extension program, which was the center of attention earlier this year when West Virginia University considered not funding the position as part of a new budgeting process after longtime 4-H agent Jim Staley retired.

The issue caused concern among dozens of 4-H supporters in Jefferson County. About 100 people voiced worries about the situation at a public hearing this summer. The job was saved when WVU and the Jefferson County Commission agreed to share the cost of the position's salary.

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Himes said he has been surprised at the support for 4-H in the county, particularly the number of adults involved.

There are 32 individual 4-H clubs in the county and each has up to 10 adult volunteers, Himes said.

"I don't think I have ever seen this level of involvement by adults," Himes said. "People see the value of working with young people."

More than 500 children and young adults ranging in age from 9 to 20 participate in 4-H to learn leadership, citizenship, management and personal responsibility skills. They develop projects over a yearlong period, which culminates in an annual judging contest at the Jefferson County Fair in August. In the summer, they attend a camp where they learn about archery, craft-making, hiking, fishing and camping.

Himes said he sees the challenge of grabbing the reigns of a 4-H program that shows no signs of slowing down. He said 40 new members have joined 4-H clubs in the county and another 4-H club has formed since he took over.

The new club is the Ranson Rockets, which meets after school at Ranson Elementary School.

Himes wants to see more school-related 4-H programs and thinks it is a good idea to have 4-H programs immediately after school hours because it is likely more students will participate.

Himes said he is interested in developing a collaborative effort between Jefferson County Schools and the county 4-H program.

Himes said he will work to build on the strong 4-H program that Staley worked to establish for 30 years.

The 43-year-old Cambria County, Pa., native worked as a coal miner as a young man, following a long tradition of coal mining in his family.

Himes obtained a bachelor's degree in agricultural science from Penn State University and a master's degree in sociology from WVU.

He spent a summer in Jamaica working on an agricultural project. As a VISTA volunteer, he helped establish a school in Barnesboro, Pa., that focused on literacy training.

Before coming to Jefferson County, he worked as a Virginia Tech extension agent in Carroll County, Va.

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