It was a 4-H family reunion of sorts as more than 300 people gathered at Camp Millstone in Ellerbe Sunday April 10 to celebrate the opening of a new $1.5 million multi-purpose history and learning center complex to be used for retreats, conferences, workshops and educational programs.
Among those on hand for the afternoon ceremony — or more accurately, series of ceremonies — were elected officials, camp donors, state 4-H officers and camp staffers, 4-H alumni and supporters, and North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, staff and retirees.
Shortly after 3 p.m., the ring of a camp bell signaled the start of festivities. Gathering on the lawn outside the House That 4-H Peanuts Built, participants celebrated a new N.C. Peanut Growers Association display inside the house. Speakers included Bob Sutter, the association’s chief executive officer, and Dr. Sharon Ellis, whose late father, Rudolph Carl Ellis, used profits from his 4-H peanut project to build the house.
Ellis and Sutter joined with state 4-H officer Cooper McAuley, CALS Dean Richard Linton and State 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences Program Leader Dr. Mike Yoder to cut a ribbon draped between porch pillars.
Participants then dispersed to take guided tours, before the camp bell again drew participants together for formal festivities dedicating two facilities inside the learning center complex.
On the complex’s front porch, Neil Cadieu of The Cole Foundation spoke and joined Linton, Yoder and 4-H Council Vice President Killian Davis for the ribbon cutting for The Cole Foundation Auditorium. The state-of-the-art auditorium seats more than 150 people.
Former state 4-H program leader Chet Black then spoke before the ribbon cutting marking the dedication of the N.C. 4-H Hall of Leadership. He was joined on the porch for the ribbon cutting by former state 4-H leaders Dr. Mike Davis, Dr. Thearon McKinney, Dr. Marshall Stewart and Dr. Mitzi Stump-Downing; Ruby Proctor; Yoder; Linton; and Killian Davis.
It was standing-room only for the final ribbon cutting and dedication — this one for the 3,500-square-foot building itself, called the State Employees’ Credit Union 4-H Learning Center. Hobbs Architects of Pittsboro designed the facilities. The SECU gave $750,000 for the project; the Cole Foundation gave $250,000; and others contributed a total of $500,000.
Linton called the SECU learning center “the crowning jewel in a family of buildings that will touch our state’s youth, families and citizens with a variety of new programs and opportunities.”
Cutting a ribbon with him were Yoder; McAuley; Killian Davis; State 4-H President Luke LaHay; Dr. Jim Clark, chair, N.C. 4-H History and Learning Center Committee; N.C. Sen. Tom McInnis; Lonnie McCaskill, SECU Advisory Board member; N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall; Keith Russell, director of Camp Millstone; and Brooke Schmidt, president of the N.C. 4-H Development Fund Board of Directors.
McInnis and Marshall, both 4-H alumni, talked about the influence of 4-H on their lives. “It’s real. … It goes with you,” said McInnis, who highlighted his participation in 4-H public speaking projects as a youth. Marshall reiterated the power of 4-H to change lives, noting that “4-H brings out the best, not just in young people, but in adults who get involved.”
4-H is the youth development program of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, an outreach partnership of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and North Carolina A&T State University’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
– D. Shore