FORT WAYNE – It’s not all about cows, goats, sheep shearing or flowers.
At least, that’s what the 4-H of Allen County is trying to get across to kids in inner-city Fort Wayne.
As part of a drive to get more kids involved in 4-H, officials are having a Kickoff for Urban 4-H in Allen County at the Urban Farmers location in the 2500 block of East Tillman Road, near Fellowship Missionary Church, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 21.
And the pitch is that 4-H offers activities that youths can enjoy after school that will keep them out of trouble.
These activities can include rocketry, fine arts, health, photography and woodworking.
There’s even a local robotics club – which is not exactly something you think of when you think rural farms and 4-H.
They’re shocked when they find out we have something like rocketry, said Samm Johnson, the extension educator for 4-H Youth Development, based at the Purdue Extension office on Crescent Avenue.
Working with a government grant, three local 4-H groups have been operating within Fort Wayne for the past few years.
According to Johnson, about 120 youths attend those groups, which focus on mission mandates such as science, citizenship and healthy living.
We want that number to go way up, Johnson said.
Which is part of the reason for the kickoff event: to get the word out about 4-H.
So far, the three sites hosting urban 4-H meetings are paid for by the grant, including one at the Euell Wilson Center on Oxford Street; another at Autumn Woods Apartments on Fayette Drive near Decatur Road; and a third at Greater Progressive Baptist Church on South Anthony Boulevard.
Officials want to sustain those sites once the grant runs out, though they don’t know when that is.
They also want to open new groups.
All of that will take volunteers, according to Johnson.
But the rewards of such groups can be immeasurable, he said.
We’re going to push the after-school time, Johnson said. It gives kids more to do and keeps them from making bad decisions.
The grant is not going to last forever, he continued. We want to make this sustainable for the future.
He said that one group is already being set up with volunteers. Haven Missionary Christian Church, 845 W. Creighton Ave., is getting a group set up and will be run by volunteers.
And he hopes more will follow suit – once people realize they don’t need a cow or sheep to be a part of 4-H.