Luckily, for local supporters and staff of the extension program and 4-H, the program's youth-focused arm, the worst-case scenario did not come to pass. Kathy Floyd, Bartow County extension coordinator, said that while the extension program as a whole took some hit due to state budget actions, the cuts did not hit too close to home.
"Here in Bartow County, we haven't lost any staff, and our funding remains what it has been, our cooperative funding from the county and the state, and then we are United Way-funded for 4-H because the only part that is funded for the 4-H program is the staff, a place to have it and a few of the educational materials -- workbooks and things like that will come from UGA or from our state 4-H office," Floyd said. "I think statewide, they'll have to look how we manage the workload that we have with the shortage in people that we have.
"We know they'll be some shifts and some changes, we don't know what that will look like, but rest assured 4-H is here, and we're not going to be anywhere else."
Months after talk of possibly shutting down the state's 4-H program -- which officials earlier this year estimated reaches an estimated 156,000 youth each year -- Bartow County 4-H is hosting for members and supporters tonight its annual awards ceremony. As of Monday, about 200 4-H'ers, donors and volunteers RSVP'ed to invites to the event being held at the Beavers Drive Senior Center.
About 175 awards will be presented to somewhere between 100 and 120 4-H'ers for their participation and performance in offerings such as consumer, horse and livestock judging competition; shooting sports and Project Achievement, the latter of which has participants learning how to present a chosen topic in their area of choice.
"I think any event where you recognize the achievement and the work that a kid has done over the past year, that's always a great thing and it's always important to do, no matter what organization you're in," said Allison Perkins, county agent for 4-H for Bartow County Extension. "If you look on the Georgia 4-H web page [georgia4h.org], you can see story after story about how 4-H has impacted these youth, and to go on that site and see some of the stories that our kids from our county have posted, it kind of is that much of a motivating factor to make sure we have this banquet, and it's still good and we still let everybody know that, 'Yes, we're still here and we're still strong.'"
Some 4-H members also will be recognized for serving on district or state 4-H boards, while those who have participated in many 4-H activities during the year will earn "Top 'Dawg'" awards.
The event also will see the efforts of donors and volunteers recognized. Perkins said that while she and Floyd coach some of the competition teams, they would be spread too thin if they did not have volunteers to help instruct 4-H'ers in the various areas and assist in other ways. "To have donor support and people that come in and volunteer their time, is a huge asset to us," she said.
Floyd said Bartow County 4-H alone serves an estimated 1,100 young people a year. Their involvement, she said, often leads to adults learning more about the services and information extension has to offer.
"Their parents come in to bring them to something, they look at the pamphlets on the wall, they see somebody else walk in with a problem with a yard or lawn or fruit tree or something, and they'll say 'What else do you do here?'" she said. "So it's a great way of getting people to know what we do."
Floyd said that if further cuts have to be made to the Extension Office in the future, she hopes state officials will spare Bartow's offerings.
"We have such a strong program here in Bartow County that I would hope we would not be the first one to be looked at [for possible cuts] by the state," she said, "because we do have a big program here, not just in 4-H, but we have a lot of calls for our [agriculture] and natural resources, we have a lot of calls for family and consumer sciences and the programs that we do ... and of course, our county's been great supporters of the extension program as a whole here.
"Until we find out anything different, we're keeping on keeping on."