Osceola County 4-H funding secure

By Emily Grove

Special to the Osceola Edition

OSCEOLA COUNTY — With MSU Extension offices all over the state preparing for budget cuts to take effect this fall, one thing Osceola County knows is their 4-H program isn’t in danger.

When the state’s budget for 2012 takes effect in October MSU Extension statewide will receive a reduction of 15 percent in state funding from the general fund.

Statewide that equates to about $6.5 million, said Shari Spoelman Osceola County District Coordinator.

“We’ve been reorganizing for over a year actually with considerable staffing reductions,” she said. “But this will have no impact on our 4-H program.”

The 4-H program is vital in all parts of the state and it is important to maintain and continue them, she said.

One reason 4-H will remain largely untouched is the amount of volunteers.

“Really the program is run by volunteers,” said Spoelman. “MSU Extension just manages them so we’re lucky to have them (volunteers).”

Another reason Osceola County’s 4-H program should continue to thrive is the community support.

The Board of County Commissioners recently voted to continue to fund 4-H at the same level it is being funded now, said Spoelman.

“We guarantee each county a certain amount of funding,” she said. “But there is a cost share to help contribute to the 4H positions.”

At a minimum each 4-H county across the state has at least a part-time position. Osceola County will have one full-time position, thanks to the commissioners.

That full-time position belongs to Jake Stieg, Osceola County 4-H program instructor.

Stieg believe 4-H deserves funding and protection because of the teaching value held within the program.

“One reason 4-H is important here in Osceola County is that it benefits not just one or ten kids, but it benefits the whole community,” he said. “It’s a good way to teach kids entrepreneurial and leadership skills which are really important in life.”

The state funding received by the county is often used to purchase supplies that are vital to making sure 4-H continues in the area, Stieg said.

MSU Extension Office is dedicated to helping 4-H grow, Spoelman said.

“Osceola County has a large 4-H program and we want to continue to support what they are contributing,” she said. “Our goal is just to maintain a presence in each county and do everything we can not to cut those youth programs.”