Happy ending to 7-year story provides a new beginning for Polk Co. 4-H
By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- After five years of fundraising and construction, Polk Co. 4-H building dedicated
- Building dedicated to memory of “Builder Bob” Lotspeich
MENA, Ark. – For Polk County’s 4-H supporters, a happy ending has provided a new beginning.
In early October – national 4-H month -- more than 100 friends of 4-H and its parent organization, the Cooperative Extension Service, took part in a dedication of a new 4-H building, standing on the site where a tornado ripped the old one down in 2009. The building lay in ruins for two years before the community could afford the first steps toward rebuilding.
“After five years of volunteer labor, donations, grants, and lots of blood, sweat, and tears, the Polk County Extension Educational Center opened its doors,” said Carla Vaught, Polk County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The rebuilding was begun in 2010 with the assistance of the New York Says Thank You organization from New York City whose motto is “We transform tragedy into hope.” The organization was on the ground to help the whole city rebuild, in addition to the giving the 4-H building a kick start.
Funds to build and furnish the building were donations. The only public money used was $20,000 of general improvement funds through state Rep. Nate Bell of Mena by way of Western Arkansas Planning and Development.
“More than $115,000 was raised for the effort,” Vaught said. “Many hours of labor and supplies were donated by local craftsmen.”
The education center, better known as the 4-H building, will offer classroom space for all program areas covered by the Polk County Extension Service, whose office is next door.
The center includes table seating for 60 people and theater seating for up to 100. There is a full demonstration kitchen as well as storage.
“Even though the building has been valued at up to $300,000 the numbers are only part of the story,” Vaught said. “The building was paid for by the love and elbow grease of volunteers – both local and from across the country -- who invested many hours in the building as well.”
The building was dedicated to the memory of “Builder Bob” Lotspeich with a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct 3. Lotpseich was killed in an accident in May 2013 in his hometown of Archie, Missouri.
Those on hand for the dedication included Vaught, Bell, Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison, as well as Anne Sortor, who heads up the 4-H program in Arkansas, Extension’s Ouachita District Director Beth Phelps, Extension Associate Director-County Operations Martha Ray Sartor and LeadAR alumnus and official construction foreman, James Earl Turner.
Phelps was moved by the event. “It was one of those days that helps you remember why you work for extension,” she said.
Also on the program was the 2015 Polk County One Day of Service activity, part of 4-H Month and the Arkansas 4-H Month of Service.
More than 100 people, mostly 4-H members, parents, and leaders, took part in the Pack Shack Fill the Funnel Party.
“They raised money to package and distribute more than 21,000 meals to those in need in Polk County,” Vaught said. Polk County Extension 4-H Program Assistant Lauren Frost organized and solicited the donations to support the Pack Shack program. More than $5,000 was raised in the last three weeks to conduct the food packing party.
“This service activity was the perfect kickoff event for a building that was built as a service project,” Vaught said. A sign above the front door says “hands to larger service,” part of the 4-H members’ pledge.
To learn more about 4-H, contact your county extension office, or visit Arkansas 4-H.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture