Service is an integral part of the West Virginia 4-H program. Even during the busy days of 4-H camps around the state, time is set aside to give back to communities near and far.
For West Virginia 4-H’ers in Ohio County, this summer’s service projects were focused on honoring those who are currently serving in our country’s military, particularly Ohio County 4-H alumna Spc. Andrea Gump.
“The 4-H program is built on empowering youths to be leaders who positively impact their communities,” said Lewis Honaker, West Virginia University Extension Service agent and assistant professor in Ohio County. “By working with Andrea and her unit, we were able to provide our 4-H’ers with a service project that they could connect with and to remind them that our communities can stretch beyond physical borders and barriers.”
The idea for the project was sparked early in the summer when Ohio County’s official West Virginia University Extension Service 4-H flag was sent overseas as part of a care package to Gump, who is currently serving in the United States Army.
Gump honored her 4-H background and home county, by having the flag, which bears the Flying WV and the 4-H emblem, flown over the Army base in Kuwait where Gump is currently deployed.
Gump said she is grateful for the Ohio County 4-H community’s support and gestures like this make her feel connected to her 4-H family while she’s away.
“To me, 4-H is about family. A family that shares a bond that will never be broken,” Gump added.
The WVU 4-H flag returned home to Ohio County just in time for this year’s camps. While at camp, 4-H members of all ages did their part to package supplies and write thank-you notes for more than 100 deployed soldiers in Gump’s unit. From hygiene products to not-yet-frozen freeze pops, 4-H’ers bundled 10 boxes of requested items to send to Kuwait.
During Ohio County’s Older 4-H Camp, camp staff and participants celebrated the completion of their service project with the announcement that their WVU 4-H flag had been flown over Gump’s base in Kuwait.
Honaker shared with campers that this had inspired a new tradition for the Ohio County 4-H program. Each year, the same flag that had traveled with Gump would be awarded to one Ohio County 4-H’er who chooses to study at WVU. The first recipient of Ohio County’s WVU 4-H flag is Hunter Smith, a long-time Ohio County 4-H’er who also happens to be Gump’s cousin.
At the end of the academic year, Smith will return the flag to the Ohio County 4-H program so the tradition may continue.