March 18, 2010

When Kentucky 4-H'ers attend camp this year, they will have new bunk beds and mattresses to retreat to at the end of exciting, memorable days.

The beds and mattresses are the first step in a project set to renovate and improve the four Kentucky 4-H camps. Improvements are beginning thanks to a $2 million appropriation from the 2008 Kentucky General Assembly.

"The $2 million is so much more than a one-time infusion of cash," said Jimmy Henning, director of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. "The camp improvements give us an opportunity to attract young people to an environment where we can put them with positive role models.  We've also been able to use the money as a springboard for discussions about what camps should look like in the future and how we may use future funds to accomplish these goals."

The camps are one of the more traditional and most popular activities in 4-H. In 2009, 8,600 youth attended camp, and over the years, thousands of Kentuckians have been positively impacted by the volunteers and friends they have met at camp.

While countless youth have positive experiences at camp, the facilities and infrastructure have not received significant improvements since the camps were built in the mid-1960s.

"We want to improve the facilities to make everyone comfortable, but at the same time, we want to maintain the culture and traditions of 4-H camping," said Donna Fox, state specialist for 4-H camps with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

In addition to the new beds and mattresses, other renovations and improvements will begin at each location after the conclusion of the 2010 camping season. The goal is to have these completed before the start of the 2011 camping sessions.

North Central, J. M. Feltner and Lake Cumberland camps will each have four cabins renovated to improve their energy efficiency. Renovations will include a new, more durable exterior surface, new windows and doors, insulation and heating and electrical upgrades.

A cabin of the future will be built at the West Kentucky 4-H Camp. This cabin will house more campers than previous cabins and include indoor community restrooms. Fox said they construct the cabin as green and energy efficient as possible. The camp's sewer infrastructure will also be improved.

While the money from the General Assembly allowed Kentucky 4-H to begin camp renovations, more funding is needed for additional renovations and improvements at each of the camps.

"We're off to a very good start with the $2 million appropriation from the General Assembly and our partnership with Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, but we have a long way to go," said Keith Rogers, executive director of the Kentucky 4-H Foundation. "To completely renovate all the cabins at the all the camps today, it would cost $13 million, and that doesn't take into account the dining halls and other infrastructure improvements."

The Kentucky 4-H Foundation has ongoing fundraising efforts for camp renovations. One such effort is through the sale of camp prints. The foundation commissioned John Ward, a national award-winning Kentucky artist, to create a scene from each of the camps. To view the prints or get an order form, visit the 4-H Camp Improvement Campaign Web site at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agcollege/4h/camp/improvement/index.htm.

Individuals wishing to donate to a particular camp or improvement project should contact Rogers at 859-257-5961, ext. 250.

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