SOUTHSIDE — Building a 4-H dining hall is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Starting in 2014, the need for a new dining hall at the county’s 4-H camp in Southside was a topic of conversation among 4-H leaders.
Then, in 2015, WVU Extension Agent Lorrie Wright and longtime 4-H Leaders Lisa Arbogast and Linda Roush, approached the Mason County Commission about funding the project and what could be done. While working with commissioners, volunteers began working together to jump start a grassroots fundraising campaign which collected thousands of dollars, including some carryover funds appropriated by the county commission to the project. By 2016, the new dining hall was “under roof” with members of the West Virginia Army National Guard donating labor to make it happen. Still, a dining hall is more than walls and a roof. The interior work and appliances were going to cost even more money.
Through fundraiser after fundraiser, the faithful kept at it and on Friday, Gov. Jim Justice arrived at the incomplete dining hall to announce the Governor’s Contingency Fund would award $60,000 to the project. Commissioner Tracy Doolittle, who is also a longtime 4-H volunteer, said this should finally finish the project.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who was also on hand to announce the award, told the Register he had worked with the county commissioners, including Doolittle who he said had “taken the lead” on the project. Carmichael presented the request to the governor who ultimately approved it.
“This is the culmination really of a lot of effort over the years to build this facility, to make it modern, to make it a 21st Century environment for 4-H,” Carmichael told those gathered at the dining hall on Friday. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and one of the reasons we’re so proud to share in this event with the governor is the fact that you, the community, have done so much to bring it to this point, so the state of West Virginia is able to step in with some final dollars to put it over the top.”
Carmichael then introduced Justice to the room full of 4-H members and leaders, parents and supporters, as well as county and state officials.
Justice said when Carmichael presented the project to him, “To me it was a no-brainer, so I said, ‘done,’ just that fast, ‘done.’”
Justice then addressed the younger people in the crowd.
“First of all, I will tell you, the friendships, the relationships that you’re building right at this time, you’re going to remember forever,” he said. “A lot of you probably dream, ‘well, I hope I can leave and go somewhere else’ and when you leave you’ll find out real fast, these friendships are the friendships that really mean something to you.”
Justice revealed his wife, Cathy, who was with him at the dining hall, was at one time a leader in 4-H and, even, the “1976 quarter-horse queen,” to which the members shouted “How How!”
“Cathy and I are you a long time ago,” Justice said. “All the stuff you’re doing is unbelievable…you see, you’re the best, you’re the leaders to be. And these great people who are teaching you all the skills and all the stuff that you have, it is the very best. You’re the foundation people. You’re the bricks.”
Doolittle, who emceed the event, also recognized and singled out the efforts of Roush, Arbogast and Wright, the latter of which gave a history of the 4-H camp to the governor at the event.
Following the event, Doolittle released this statement on behalf of the Commission.
“On behalf of the Mason County Commission, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to our Governor Jim Justice and our Senate President Mitch Carmichael for awarding us this $60,000 grant. Because of their support we will be able to complete our 4-H dining hall multi-purpose facility. With this support we will be able to offer our facilities to other counties and their youth programs. Providing us with the income to maintain our 4-H facilities for our youth.”
Sitting alongside the governor on Friday, in addition to his wife Cathy, Doolittle and Carmichael, were Commissioners Rick Handley and Sam Nibert, Delegates Jim Butler and Scott Cadle and Justice’s Chief of Staff Mike Hall.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.