United Way and 4-H provide programs to kids

Editor’s note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – Due to the support of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the Wood County 4-H Association has been able to help hundreds of children participate in programs throughout the years.

“With the help of the United Way, we are able to give more to the kids,” said Jodi Smith, a 4-H Extension Agent in Wood County with West Virginia University Extension Service.

The local 4-H organization receives a total of $6,500 in funds for two programs: Energy Express summer day program and to aid youths attending 4-H summer camp. The reading program receives the bulk of the grant monies with $5,000 earmarked for the six-week reading initiative and the other $1,500 helps children whose families cannot afford to send them to summer camp.

The $5,000 for Energy Express allows the program to provide a fun and intensive reading program to about 160 students at area elementary schools.

“Those United Way funds provide meals for the AmeriCorps mentors who work with the children and the 30 percent required local match for the annual program,” Smith said.

The program employs three teachers and 21 AmeriCorps college student volunteers and also provides area children with free and nutritious meals.

Energy Express was created in West Virginia and adopted by many states throughout the country, Smith added.

“The program has gone on to win national awards,” she said. “The kids, on average, gain three to five months in broad reading achievement, which is very significant in six weeks.

“Every year we have great success stories from Energy Express,” Smith said.

Energy Express combines reading, writing, art and drama to help the children with their reading skills and abilities.

As for summer camp, the United Way funds allowed 21 local kids to attend 4-H camp this summer.

“The funds allow us to provide (camp) scholarships for between 20 and 25 kids each year,” Smith said. “The number changes every year, but we are always able to help a lot of kids.”

Because of the financial assistance from the United Way, the Wood County 4-H program is able to offer some of the lowest-cost camps in the state, Smith added.

Along with the annual grant funds, the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley provides backpacks and school supplies for the students of Energy Express while also allowing the Wood County 4-H opportunities to promote their programs and to recruit volunteers.

“We appreciate all of the support from the United Way and not only the funding but other things they do,” Smith said. “The United Way are partners, not just a source of funding.”

For more information on the 4-H Leaders Association or area 4-H programs, visit the WVU Extension Service Wood County at wood.ext.wvu.edu.