RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation has awarded $50,000 in grants to ease the extreme financial impact of a missed season of summer camp on NC State Extension’s Millstone 4-H Camp and the North Carolina FFA Center.
No one could predict, back in March, that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 would wreak havoc on the plans of summer camps across the nation. While some privately owned camps chose to open with vastly reduced camper capacity, the decision of N.C. 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA), as camps affiliated with NC State University, was to close out of an abundance of caution.
In his 32 years as camp director at Millstone 4-H Camp, Keith Russell has never experienced a summer like 2020. “Camp is just sitting here, all summer long. There should be 100-plus children making happy sounds all over camp,” he explained while sadly recounting the 240 acres and 42 buildings that have remained quiet since mid-March.
But while these camps sit empty, staff like Russell work not only to provide ways to remain engaged with youth, but also to fund camp operational needs like payroll and facilities upkeep, without the revenue that camper tuition and third-party rentals bring each year. “We have used this time to plan for the future,” Russell said, but with the camp relying on fees that don’t exist in 2020, the SECU Foundation grant has helped to fill the void.
FFA Camp Feels Pandemic Impact
“This is the first time since World War II that the North Carolina FFA Center has been closed,” said Joshua Bledsoe, State Agricultural Education Leader and FFA Advisor.
The center, located at White Lake in Bladen County, is the second-oldest FFA camp in the nation, having hosted its first camp in 1928. “Our seven acres of land was purchased by agriculture teachers and the FFA association,” Bledsoe said before explaining that it was the vision of these teachers to provide life changing experiences for their students.
Every summer, FFA camp provides seven weeks of camp activities, but the impact of camp reaches far beyond that short timeframe. Local businesses in this rural area, like caterers and landscapers, depend on camp for their business. And the closure of camp has meant no family reunion, church or triathlon rentals this year.
“We have seen so many posts on social media about how much our FFA members and agriculture teachers have missed camp,” Bledsoe said.
Looking Toward 2021
“When we made the decision to close it took all of our revenue away,” said Bledsoe.
“This grant is a lifesaver for us. The funds will keep the center afloat, allowing us continuity of services. When we reopen, it will be the best FFA Camp experience our members have ever had!”
The State Employees Credit Union has a history of support for both 4-H and FFA. Millstone 4-H Camp’s newest building, the SECU 4-H Learning Center, was made possible in part by a $750,000 gift from the credit union, while a $400,000 grant assisted FFA with building the SECU Dormitory.
“The bottom line is that SECU is helping us to continue our mission, allowing us to serve the children of North Carolina,” Russell said. “We help children to learn about themselves, others and the natural world.”
Dave Herpy, 4-H camping specialist with NC State Extension, added, “Camp is a life-changing experience for youth. We are grateful to the SECU Foundation for helping us to continue providing these experiences through their generous support.”
Individuals and organizations can continue this support by sending children to camp in 2021, booking corporate events at the camp facilities, or making donations at the links provided below.
To make a donation to Millstone 4-H Camp: http://go.ncsu.edu/campmillstone
To make a donation to the North Carolina FFA: https://go.ncsu.edu/ffa-foundation-giving
–Julie Hayworth-Perman, N.C. State University