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WVU Extension service project on full display at the U.S. Capitol

Two elementary school students pose with the artwork on their holiday ornaments.
4-H'ers and other volunteers from all 55 West Virginia counties made nearly 6,000 holiday ornaments for the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. (Photo: WVU Extension)

West Virginia University will be represented in Washington this holiday season beginning Tuesday (Nov. 28) with the official lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, an evergreen with many connections to the Mountain State through WVU Extension.

For WVU Extension, the holidays started in the spring.

When it was announced the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree would hail from the Monongahela National Forest, the USDA Forest Service reached out to WVU Extension to enlist the helping hands of 4-H members and other Extension volunteers. The tree, along with more than 65 companion trees, would need ornaments — approximately 14,000 of them. WVU Extension, with offices in all 55 counties, had the people and expertise to help with this effort.

Working with the Forest Service, WVU Extension 4-H created a service project which would be carried out at state and county camps, giving young people and volunteers opportunities to use their creativity and love of the state for display in Washington on the West Lawn and at Capitol buildings.

“This service project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our youth to be part of something really special. To see them drawing their favorite West Virginia scenes, showcasing their 4-H pride and creating beautiful artwork that will be on display for hundreds of thousands of visitors was so inspiring,” Luci Mosesso, WVU 4-H Extension agent in Pocahontas County, said. 

In all, 4-H members made nearly 5,400 ornaments at camps and other events, contributing 2,500 service hours to the project.

"We also had members of our Community Educational Outreach Service clubs around the state and other volunteers who contributed beautiful ornaments. We were able to send nearly 6,000 ornaments to the Capitol and represent the state of West Virginia. We are so proud to have been a part of this project.” 

In late October, West Virginia’s 4-H program got another surprise. Ethan Reese, a 4-H’er from Randolph County, was chosen as the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest winner. Reese’s essay was selected from more than 400 submissions. 

In his essay, Reese wrote “I spend a lot of time there [Monongahela National Forest] with my family, and I am the great-great grandson of one of the very first superintendents of the Monongahela National Forest. The biggest reason I love West Virginia forests and public lands is because they allow me to spend time with my family. I take photographs with my dad, hike with my mom, fish with my grandpa, identify wildflowers with my grandparents, travel and explore with my parents, and camp with all of my family.” 

The Beverly Elementary fourth grader will take part in the official tree-lighting ceremony alongside members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the public on Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. on the West Lawn. Joining him will be nearly 200 West Virginia 4-H’ers from Pocahontas and Randolph counties, as well as other parts of the state. 

Many WVU Extension 4-H groups, faculty, staff and other volunteers provided support for special events around the state, including educational activities and exhibits, as the tree made its way to Washington. 

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Tara Curtis  
Director of Communications & Marketing  
WVU Extension    

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