Renovo to get 4-H club

LOCK HAVEN — Renovo will finally get a 4-H program this year.

The project has been in the works for a year, said Kirsten Dubbs, 4-H coordinator for the Penn State Extension in Clinton County.

“I think we finally have a model that’s going to fly,” she said.

She hopes to bring a traditional 4-H club to the Renovo area, one aimed at youth ages 8 to 18, solely staffed by volunteers.

Last year, employees in the Penn State Extension 4-H program met and talked about the effects of the opioid crisis on families and ways to positively influence youth in underserved areas, she said. Several said they wanted to target Renovo because of its low-income population. About a third of the borough’s population lives below the poverty line, including 50 percent of children and youths.

Dubbs said Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park Association, headed by President Rich Wyckoff and Mary George Rhone, is helping the Clinton 4-H office organize the Renovo program. Dubbs is in the process of screening 13 volunteers from Renovo interested in teaching classes on animal sciences, shooting sports, gardening, theatre arts, environmental science and Lego robotics.

Though the club will most likely be stationed in Renovo Borough, “anybody who wants to travel in is more than welcome,” said Dubbs.

Clinton County has eight fully-functioning 4-H clubs and has also partnered with the Lock Haven YMCA, Lock Haven University, Ross Library and Friendship Library in Beech Creek to bring programs to area youth who don’t have the ability to commit to a club.

Since 2012, membership in county 4-H clubs has gone up by 74 percent.

The 4-H club “is fun but it’s rigorous,” said Dubbs. “Every kid every year does at least one project.”

“Our ultimate goal is life skills development,” she said.

According to a Penn State study, 4-H youth acquire many life skills through participation in the club, including communication, decision-making, goal-setting and critical thinking skills.

“You struck…a piece of my heart” with the presentation, said Commissioner Pete Smeltz. “This is a good thing…we want to grow this.”

Before hearing Dubbs’ presentation on positive ways to influence children through the 4-H program, commissioners heard from county Children and Youth Services Director Autumn Bower.

On Aug. 30 and 31, she said, county CYS underwent its annual licensing inspection and received zero citations.

Bower said three to five citations have been common in the past for the department. To her knowledge, she said, this year was the first that CYS was not facing any citations.

The licensing agency pulled about 10 cases from each branch of referrals, including referrals for abuse, general protective services, screen-outs, in-home cases and foster home cases.

It found that Clinton County’s CYS had good response times for referrals and impressive contact with families working with the agency.

Bower said the licensing agency wrote, “(CYS) goes above and beyond and that staff go above and beyond.”

“It’s been a tough year, we’ve had some turnover…but (the staff) handled it well,” said Bower.

Clinton County’s CYS office is one of the highest personnel agencies in the county. The agency receives about 67 percent reimbursement–for everything from certain salaries to certain programs–from the state.