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Officials break ground for new 4-H camp building

An unconventional indoor groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 13 marked the start of construction for a camp auditorium and learning center that an NC State University official said would be the crowning jewel of Millstone 4-H Camp, in North Carolina’s Sandhills region.

Despite cold weather, more than 100 people – including 4-H alumni, leaders, donors and NC State University administrators – gathered at the Ellerbe, N.C., camp for the groundbreaking for the $1.5 million State Employees Credit Union 4-H Learning Center and Cole Foundation Auditorium.

Scheduled to be completed in September, the privately funded building will provide 3,500 square feet of air-conditioned space for camps, retreats, conferences and workshops, said N.C. 4-H Camping Specialist David Herpy. Hobbs Architects of Pittsboro designed the facility.

The space will include an auditorium seating more than 150 people, a hall of leadership honoring former state 4-H program leaders, a 4-H archive and conference room, a catering kitchen and more.

State 4-H program leader Dr. Mike Yoder opened the groundbreaking ceremony in a screened-in building where participants gathered around portable heaters and drank hot chocolate to keep warm. He noted that the 320-acre camp was constructed in 1938 and opened the following year.

Dr. Richard Linton, dean of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that the auditorium and learning center would deepen the camp’s impact.

“The building marks a new era for Millstone and for the North Carolina 4-H camps,” Linton said, “and will become 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 that can be offered for the community.”

Following Linton’s and Yoder’s remarks, representatives of two major donors, the State Employees Credit Union Foundation and the Cole Foundation, presented oversized checks. Neil Cadieu Jr. contributed the Cole Foundation’s check for $250,000, while SECU Foundation Board of Directors’ chairman McKinley Wooten gave a check for $750,000.

Wooten quoted Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, former Morehouse College president, as saying, “We have no guarantee that when we train a man’s mind, we will train his heart; no guarantee that when we increase a man’s knowledge, we will increase his goodness. There is no necessary correlation between knowledge and goodness.”

However, Wooten added, 4-H helps make that correlation for young people through its four-pronged emphasis on head, hands, heart and health.

McKinley Wooten, Rich Linton, Neal Cadieu Jr. and Joe Zublena
McKinley Wooten, Rich Linton, Neal Cadieu Jr. and Joe Zublena break ceremonial ground for the SECU 4-H Learning Center and Cole Foundation Auditorium.

Following speeches, Cadieu, Wooten, Yoder, Linton and Dr. Joseph Zublena, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, of which 4-H is a part, came together to turn gilded shovels in a dirt mound placed on a stage inside.

Afterward, they went outside to the building site to pose for photographs while other groundbreaking participants joined in an indoor reception.

Millstone is one of three North Carolina 4-H camps and centers. The others are Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center and the Eastern 4-H Center.

-D. Shore