July 18, 2008

The Kentucky Leadership Center is no more. Lake Cumberland 4-H Camp is a memory. In their place is the new Lake Cumberland 4-H Educational Center, a merged entity that promises to offer visitors the best of both facilities.

In the business world, mergers can sometimes mean downsizing and a reduction of services. But the merger of the Kentucky Leadership Center with Lake Cumberland 4-H Camp will result in the opposite occurring, according to officials in University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Combining the two facilities means being able to create a wider variety of programming and entice more people to use the services, said Joyce Belcher, director of the leadership center, and the mastermind behind the new system, along with Cooperative Extension Specialist for 4-H Camps Donna Fox. The merger creates the potential for greater marketing strategies and an increased revenue stream from more intensive use of the facilities throughout the year, both important elements during rough economic times.

"I think Joyce and Donna should be congratulated for coming up with an idea that is a cost-saving measure that results in a better program. You don't often find those two things linked together," said Jimmy Henning, associate dean for extension and associate director of the UK Cooperative Extension Service. "

The idea originated from a trip Belcher made to the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock.

"They were one entity," she said. "The 4-H kids could enjoy the conference center and the center's guests could enjoy the 4-H camp, which gave them a lot more to offer. I was excited about it. I started to think, wow, we could do that with ours."

Returning home, she immediately shared her idea with Fox. The two women began drawing up a proposal they hoped would enhance both of their operations.

"Joyce and I work great together, and as we put this proposal together we thought this is a great opportunity to make better use of our resources and really create some unique and fun programming opportunities for youth as well as for adults," Fox said. "I'm looking forward to that and looking forward to developing the facility even more so it becomes a showcase for extension and for 4-H."

Belcher said guests at the center often want to use the camp's facilities, such as pontoon boats, the pool or the ropes course. Up until now it's been difficult to arrange, since the camp is closed much of the year and when it's open, it's filled to capacity with 4-H campers. But now, by using camp facilities as an additional enticement, Belcher expects to attract even more groups to the center. The merger with the camp also means that during the off-season, the camp dining hall can be used as valuable meeting space to accommodate large groups.

"We'll be able to accommodate more groups at once because they can meet at the camp and sleep in the lodge," she said.

"It'll take a few months, but once we're stabilized and we're seeing consistent revenues, we'd like to be able to use those revenues to upgrade some of our cabins, so that our adult groups might want to use them in the off-season," Fox said. "So it really expands our market area by having both cabins and a conference center and all of these outdoor areas for an environmental approach to programming."

Staff for the two facilities will join to maintain the entire campus, which will be a move toward greater efficiency, as well as being economically sound, Belcher said.

"The center has slow times when the camp has busy times. So we can utilize the same employees and really benefit a lot," she said, referring to both the cook staff and the maintenance crews.

"It saves money and more fully utilizes both the camp and the center, which obviously, in these economic times, is a good idea," Henning said.

As the pieces fall into place, Fox and Belcher will work on new programming ideas and ways to attract more people to the scenic countryside around Jabez.

"We'll always need the ongoing support of our extension family and outside folks in helping us continue to improve the facility and grow the programming," Fox said. "So when there are opportunities, especially for our extension family to use our facility, we certainly welcome them here."

For more information about the Lake Cumberland 4-H Educational Center, visit their Web site http://www.ca.uky.edu/agcollege/4h/klc/index.htm.

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