4-H Center dedicated Wednesday
COLUMBIANA, Ala.—The Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama 4-H Foundation dedicated an $8.4 million addition to the Alabama 4-H Center Wednesday, June 9.
The Alabama 4-H Center is the premiere environmental education program in Alabama. It is the only conference center located in the pristine, natural environment of Alabama. Located on more than 260 acres on Lay Lake, the 4-H Center includes forests, riparian areas and a raptor center. This makes the Center one of the largest conference facilities in the state.
Expands 4-H Center’s Ability to Serve Others
Mike Phillips, director of Alabama Extension, said the expansion will dramatically increase the center’s ability to serve more young people and adults with important programs.
“We have added a world-class dining and culinary facility to an already outstanding facility,” Phillips said. “We are so grateful to the many donors who supported this expansion. Alabama Extension hopes the facility will be used by many organizations for activities including youth development, professional development or simply a place to relax and re-energize.”
The growing facility features a hotel, environmental conference center, science school, dining facilities, residential dorms and cabins. It is ranked among the top meeting and convention facilities in the Birmingham Metro area. The 4-H Center offers single day learning programs, overnight environmental education experiences and 4-H camps. The science school offers 28 distinct programs, including: forest ecosystems; aquatic environments; reptiles and amphibians; the world of insects and the story of birds, as well as other programs.
Expanded Dining and Meeting Spaces
Molly Gregg, Alabama Extension assistant director over 4-H programming, said new food preparation areas and dining facilities will enhance young people’s experiences at the Center, whether they come for camp or another activity.
“The expanded kitchen is double the size of our old one,” Gregg said. “It will maximize efficiency allowing the facility to feed a full house of young people and host other patrons in a newly constructed dining area at the same time.”
She added that thanks to the generosity of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the newly renovated youth dining area allows everyone to eat together.
“We are thrilled that multiple seating sessions for meals are a thing of the past,” she said.
A new dining hall, funded by a gift from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, provides additional meal and meeting space. A new conference room, supported by Shelby County, is adjacent to the new dining hall.
Improves Long Term Sustainability of Center
Kristy Abrams, the 4-H Center’s interim director, said that these new facilities increase the long-term sustainability for the center, which first opened its doors in 1980.
“The Center is better positioned to host conferences for businesses and organizations with our new conference room and adult dining room,” Abrams said. “These new spaces offer state of the art technology where guests can meet face to face as well as bring participants in virtually.”
Seth Tuttle, Alabama 4-H Foundation development officer, said the 4-H Foundation board launched a strategic plan for the Center’s growth in 2016.
“The Center had wait lists for programs such as overnight summer camps and the existing space limited the center’s availability to serve corporate events and host overnight guests.”
The 4-H Foundation launched a capital campaign in 2018 to fund the much-needed expansion.
“The Foundation is very grateful to the more than 250 individuals, corporations, foundations and organizations who believed in the vision of an expanded Alabama 4-H Center,” Tuttle said. “The Center is now poised to nurture new generations of young people.”
Owned by the Alabama 4-H Foundation, in partnership with Alabama Extension, the Center offers youth leadership development and environmental education programs along with overnight hotel and corporate meeting opportunities. Educational programs at the Center provide a variety of hands-on daytime and overnight educational experiences for youth, teachers and other adults, helping them become more effective citizens, leaders and natural resource stewards.
4-H is an outreach effort of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with more than 50,000 enrolled members. On average, more than 170,000 young people take part in some activity affiliated with Alabama 4-H each year.