Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County's 4-H Program is working to raise $2 million for the Chautauqua County 4-H Endowment Fund.
The 4-H Youth Program has suffered many financial setbacks in recent years. Once a fully funded program with tax-based money from the Chautauqua County Legislature, funding was cut to $25,000 in 2010 and eliminated in 2012. Surviving on grant support and fundraising in 2012 was stressful for the program and something Emily Kidd, 4-H issue leader, said she hopes to never encounter again.
"It is difficult on staff but very stressful for youth and the volunteers that spend countless hours supporting 4-H and making the programs successful. It was a year to celebrate because we survived it, but not something I would ever want to face again," Kidd said.
The Lesch Family of Cassadaga presents a $5,000 check for the Chautauqua County 4-H Endowment Fund. From left to right: Randy Sweeney, Community Foundation Executive Director; Emily Kidd, Chautauqua County 4-H issue leader; Irene Lesch; David Lesch; Adam Lesch; Jacob Lesch; Garrett Lesch; Braden Lesch; John Lesch and Heather Lesch, Canadaway Club Leader.
Kidd has been working diligently with a group of dedicated volunteers to ensure that those worries are in the past. One of the steps toward solving future funding problems was establishing an endowment fund with the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
"We are impressed with the foundation's commitment to Chautauqua County and confident that an endowment with them will allow the community to give confidently, knowing that their funds will be invested wisely and will secure the highest possible return to support 4-H." she said.
The 4-H Endowment Fund has a goal of $2 million by 2017 with the help of private and public donations. Kidd said a full endowment will create an annual payout that is enough to cover operating costs for future years.
"4-H is an opportunity to engage many local youth that live in rural areas in positive ways," said Randy Sweeney, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation executive director. "Their participation in these programs reinforces life skills that will help them succeed later on in life. Their success will benefit the future of our region in ways we can't even imagine. The Community Foundation is proud to partner with 4-H and help them make this $2 million goal a reality."
The county and 4-H supporters are already embracing the endowment concept and commending 4-H on its efforts. The Chautauqua County Legislature reinstated $25,000 in the County budget to help fund 4-H in 2013.
"The decision to create an endowment fund is a very proactive, forward thinking, and practical approach by the leaders of the Chautauqua County 4-H Program," said County Executive Greg Edwards. "It gives them control of their future and ensures that the program continues to play a role in the lives of our county's youth, while at the same time helping the county reduce the tax burden for our residents."
The Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation has also shown support for 4-H by awarding a grant to assist the 2013 to 2015 operating budgets. The Sheldon Foundation grant is not part of the endowment.
"Our board of directors felt this was a great way to show our support and help 4-H stay on their feet and focus on the endowment," said Linda Swanson, Sheldon Foundation executive director.
MAKING ITS MARK
An organization nationally known for their work with youth, Chautauqua County 4-H serves 466 members between the ages of 5 and 19. Members are provided with more than 200 hours of programs in a variety of disciplines, based on their interests.
"4-H focuses greatly on youth voice," Kidd said. "Youth in local clubs choose together what projects the club members will do for the year and adult leaders help them reach their goals."
With 68 percent of members living in rural areas, 4-H reaches out to those with limited access to youth development and provides them an opportunity to facilitate friendship, independence, generosity and mastery of skills, in a safe environment.
In 1937, Henrietta Lesch established the Canadaway 4-H Club. For the past 75 years, her children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have been active members of the club.
According to a letter submitted by the family, "In memory of Henrietta Lesch, and all of the other Canadaway leaders who have passed on, and in honor of all the past, present and future Canadaway members and leaders, the David and Irene Lesch Family would like to make a donation to the Chautauqua County 4-H Program."
David, Henrietta's son, and his wife Irene, own and operate Lesch Farms in Cassadaga. They said they want their $5,000 donation to serve as a, "mustard seed of faith" that will encourage others to support a program that is important to many families in the region.
In addition to one-time contributions, 4-H will use a pledge system, which will allow individuals and organizations to make a contribution every year for five years. 4-H has implemented four levels of giving to reflect the core values of 4-H. Those levels are as follows: Health - $5,000 and above; Head - $2,500-$4,999; Hands - $500-$2,499; and Heart - $250-$499.
Contributions under $250 may be made payable to the "Friends of 4-H CCE" and may be mailed directly to the 4-H Office.
For more information on 4-H Youth Programming contact Emily Kidd at 664-9502, ext. 214. For information about the endowment fund, or to make a contribution, contact the Community Foundation at 661-3390.