4-H camp closes for season

MINERAL WELLS – For some Wood County families, the 4-H program and summer camp are traditions passed down through the generations.

Jodi Smith has served as the Wood County 4-H agent, West Virginia University Extension Service, for the past 10 years. She said 4-H has changed over the years to meet the needs of youth, but some of the hallmarks like leadership training, and summer camp at the Butcher Bend Mineral Wells campground have remained the same.

The 4-H campground, a summer home to thousands of Wood County children, is this year celebrating its 75th year of service to the area.

“These kids start planning for next year’s camp as soon as this one is over. They look forward to coming to this camp all year. They come up with ideas and we put it together, it’s the highlight of their summer. Some of them are here for all our camps,” Smith said.

The 4-H program has changed over the years, but some tried and true traditions remain.

“There’s a lot more technology involved with the 4-H program now, more online global programs, but we also still offer the traditional animal projects, cooking and sewing that have always been offered. We have a new microwave cooking project, there are projects for building rockets and robots, and a new workforce development program for middle school students. We have all sorts of new and exciting projects for the kids,” Smith said.

A former 4-Her herself, Becky Marks is now a program assistant and 4-H leader for the Saulsbury Club and three afterschool clubs that meet at Emerson, Fairplains and Mineral Wells schools.

“My mother was a 4-H leader, and after being a member, my sisters and I went on to become leaders as well,” she said.

“There are a lot more opportunities for scholarships now, to travel, more projects for them to take, including a lot of science and technology related projects. The program provides lots of opportunities to meet new kids in the county, around the state and country. We still focus on the basic principles on which 4-H was founded, as well as leadership skills, inclusion of others, it’s always been that way. One good thing about 4-H, everybody fits in,” Marks said.

Amanda Moles was a teen leader supervisor at camp this week. She is a lifelong 4-Her, fourth year generation. Moles said camp plays a significant role as part of the overall 4-H experience.

“I think 4-H as a whole gives you a real sense of family. I still have friends I first met as a 4-Her when I was 9-years old. A sense of family all year round,” Moles said of the 4-H experience.

“I think people would be surprised to know that 4-H is much more than just livestock projects. Personally, I did teen leader projects, which includes leadership and a lot of community service. I grew up with the program and am still very much involved with it and now we are turning a page and going towards more science and technology projects,” Moles said.

The camp this year is showing off its newly renovated camp council circle. The old one was destroyed by the derecho.

“Our new council circle is fully accessible and we are very proud of it. We did a lot of fundraisers, got donations and received funds through the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation as well. We are still working on it, but this was the first year we’ve been able to use it,” Smith said.

Smith said the youth planted some trees at the camp in honor of the WVU Extension’s 100th year anniversary and the campground’s 75th year.

There are currently 18 4-H clubs in county with approximately 500 kids enrolled. There were about 300 kids attending camp this summer. The camps included Young Adventure weekend camp for the younger set, 5-10 year-olds, then horse camp, camp for the older 4-Hers was last week, and this week was camp for the younger 4-Hers, ages 9-12.