Asking John and Betty Ray Loyd why they support WVU Extension Service 4-H programming is like asking why the sun shines — it is second nature.
The couple established the John and Betty Ray Loyd Family 4-H Endowment Fund will support scholarships for 4-H members, leaders and volunteers in Barbour, Braxton and Lewis counties. The funds will provide opportunities to broaden the 4-H experience by participating in local, county, state and national programs.
It’s his experience as a former 4-H agent and her experience as a 4-H club leader that persuaded the Loyds to create the endowment.
“We would like this fund to expand experiences to as many youths and adults as possible,” said Mr. Loyd. “The 4-H agents can use the fund to support scholarships for state camps or leadership forums at the National 4-H Center. Whatever they need to create a better experience for 4-H’ers, we want the fund to provide it.”
The Loyds both started in 4-H through county programs, Mr. Loyd in Braxton County, and Mrs. Loyd in neighboring Lewis County.
“My mother was a member of the Farm Women’s Club so it was a natural fit for me to join 4-H, which at the time was largely agricultural based,” said Mr. Loyd. “I joined in 1942 and my first project was raising 50 baby chicks.”
Similarly, Mrs. Loyd was introduced to 4-H very early in life. “In 1945 my grandmother got me involved with 4-H when I was nine,” she said. “I was in the Horner Busy Bees Club and had many projects. My brother and I raised and sold turkeys, and with that money, I bought my first bedroom suit for my room improvement project.”
The couple continued to be involved with the program through high school, participating in camps and projects in their respective county programs.
After his first year at graduate school at West Virginia University, Mr. Loyd worked as a leader at several 4-H camps that summer. When he graduated in 1956, West Virginia State 4-H Club leader C.P. Dorsey asked him to become a 4-H agent. Mr. Loyd declined, and instead started working in the International Foreign Youth Exchange program.
The following Labor Day, Mr. Loyd ended up at a Barbour County Extension meeting and was hired as the 4-H agent. In the mid-1960s, his role expanded to Taylor County. During that time, he spent six weeks of the summer leading 4-H camps and attended a 4-H camp every year since 1943.
Mrs. Loyd encouraged and supported her husband’s career through every camp cleanup or out-of-state meeting. She also had a successful career of her own as a home economics teacher in Barbour County schools, while helping to raise their four children. The Loyds both served as West Virginia All-Star Chiefs and were the first married couple to have both been leaders of the prestigious 4-H organization. Mrs. Loyd also served a 4-H club leader for more than 15 years. And their son, Bruce Loyd, has carried on that tradition of service where he works as WVU Extension agricultural agent in Lewis County.
“When I was younger, I didn’t expect 4-H to be such an important part of my life,” Ms. Loyd said. “I married a WVU Extension Service 4-H agent and my involvement in the program didn’t stop there. It was expected our kids would be in 4-H, and now it seems it has turned into a family affair.”
The John and Betty Ray Loyd Family 4-H Endowment Fund only extends their passion for the organization.
“A number of adults who I had in 4-H have told me that if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t be where they are now,” said Mr. Loyd. “4-H is important for many reasons, but if we can continue to take interest in our 4-H’ers, we can change lives.”
County 4-H youth development programs are the cornerstone of West Virginia communities. To learn more about how to support WVU Extension programs, including the Loyd 4-H endowment, contact Lauren Seiler, director for development, WVU Extension at 304-293-5692 or email Lauren.Seiler@mail.wvu.edu.