I am writing this through tears and probably will not be able to put down a cohesive post so please forgive me.
Times are tough all over the country, and unfortunately Cornell Cooperative Extension is not immune to budget cuts. The Suffolk County budget for 2009 was facing a defecit of $940,000 and cuts had to be made. As a taxpayer, I understand that and appreciate fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, the bulk of those cuts were made to youth development programs, including but not limited to Suffolk County 4-H. I would like to show you what that looks like.
First, there is the obvious loss of jobs. The 4-H program Director, the Administrative Assistant (a title which does not even begin to describe all she does) and the Life Skills Director have all lost thier jobs. No funding means no staff.
Have your kids taken the "Getting Ready to Babysit" program at a local library? Have you attended a class on the farm? Have you been kayaking or fishing or hiking or had a class at the Marine Center in Southold? Have you been to PumkinFest? Have your kids enjoyed Horseback riding at Dorothy P. Flint or camping at Peconic Dunes? Did you attend the Barn Dance at Martha Clara the past few summers? Have you taken the Chocolate Class at LISC? Are your kids taking part in the River Ecology research? These are all 4-H programs. No funding, no programs.
Every single youth development program run in by CCE in this county is a research based, tested and true 4-H curricula. Did you know that?
Second, no staff could mean the loss of Taste of 4-H, an annual gathering of all county clubs where we learn new projects to take back to our clubs and get information on the county wide community service project for that year. Did anyone recieve a brochure this summer on Emergency Preparedness? With a striking young Mastiff on the cover ? Did you learn what to do in the event of a natural disaster and where you and your pets can go? This was a 4-H project. Yaphank Farm is going to house an animal shelter, in conjunction with the Suffolk Sherrifs department, as a direct result of the efforts of our 4-H kids and leaders.
Other losses could include the presentation program, which is the cornerstone of 4-H. Capital days, where 2 teens travel to Albany to spend the day learning alongside a local legislative representative. Career Days, where teens can travel to Cornell and explore vocational opportunities in ag and science.
You will not see this budget cut on the front page of your morning paper. You will not hear about it on the evening news. See, 4-H'ers are not a showy bunch. We won't be knocking on your door trying to sell you cookies. Our pictures won't be in a newspaper achieving a badge or plaque for completing a project and you won't see us taking money outside a light show. We will be quietly learning, researching and serving our community. The real loss here is the feeling of hope and accomplishment that 4-H instills in our kids and our communities.
Suffolk County 4-H needs your help.
Now, more than ever "Volunteers are the Heart of 4-H".
We need community representation on the 4-H Program Advisory Committee (PAC) and we need dollars. Which is a catch 22. If we raise the dollars to keep the programs running we will lose the funding in the future. If we don't raise the dollars, we cease to exist. No win situation. However, I believe in this program and I believe in the hearts of our kids. If you have ever thought about joining 4-H, now is the time. Join an existing club or start your own. Ask me how. If you have been looking for a voice in youth development, here is your chance. Join the
4-H PAC, ask me how. Is your business in need of an end of year tax deduction? 4-H Youth Development needs your dollars, ask me how!!!!! Can you teach a class or set up tables and chairs? Can you push a broom for 20 minutes on 1 Saturday? Can you evaluate a presentation? Can you donate a case of water or a pizza or a case of snacks?
The 4-H PAC will not let the kids feel the squeeze of these cuts. We will get up and beg, borrow and plead with our friends for the programs our kids love. We will survive this, hopefully with a louder voice and wider community representation.
Your time is now, ask me how!!!!!!!!!