The Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. was formed in July 1956 as a permanent, altruistic, non-profit corporation for the purpose of “augmenting and enhancing the educational, leadership, and citizenship training of young people in Alabama.” Funds, gifts, or other resources have been used according to the articles of incorporation, to “meet the needs and advance the interest of 4-H throughout Alabama.” The Board envisioned from its beginning a youth development program, where young people from throughout the state could gain hands-on experience and knowledge.

Original Board Members

Members named at the time of incorporation in 1956 included C.J. Coley, of Alexander City, who served as chairman until 1960 and A. L. Johnson, of Decatur, who served as chairman between 1960 and 1964.

Other charter members were Tom Allen, Gadsden; E.E. Anthony, Andalusia; E.C. Easter, Birmingham; Paul Grist, Selma; Walter Kennedy, Birmingham; John Kilgore, Jasper; Mrs. R. H. McIntosh, Birmingham; Walter Randolph, Montgomery; Frank Samford, Birmingham; Mrs. Tom Sharman, Riverview; Arthur Tonsmeire, Jr., Mobile; John Ward, Montgomery; and Howard Yielding, Birmingham.

The first 4-H Capital Campaign & Development of the 4-H Center

The first major project the Foundation Board initiated was a $1 million Capital Campaign. The funds were to support the building of a 4-H Youth Development Center and the creation of an endowment fund to support and sustain the Center and the 4-H Youth Development Program. The Board successfully led the Capital Campaign effort and completed their fundraising goal in 1961. For 17 years the funds were invested in an endowment. Earnings were returned to the county 4-H programs for use in supporting local programs. In 1978, the board voted to build the 4-H Youth Center in Shelby County on land leased from Alabama Power Company on Lay Lake.

Construction of the Center began in 1979 with a contract to build a lodge, the Lem Morrison Dormitory, a manager’s residence, and a swimming pool funded by Tine W. and Eunice Davis. In 1980, the Center opened to 4-H’ers.

Since the initial Center building project and the first group of campers, the 4-H Foundation has led efforts in raising support and expanding the 4-H Youth Center. In 1984, the Cecil Mayfield Recreation Building was constructed largely through a gift from the Brown Foundation and honoring the state 4-H Leader who devoted his entire career to the vision and development of the 4-H Program and the 4-H Youth Center

That same year, the ALFA dormitory was built through gifts from county Alabama Farmers Federation organizations. In 1987, the Lem Morrison Conference Center wing was added through private individual donations honoring the man who unselfishly gave of his time and resources to the 4-H Youth Development Center and served as a Board Member and later Chairman from 1964 until his death in 1992.

The Extension Memorial Chapel, dedicated in 1991, was funded by memorial gifts in honor of deceased Extension workers. In 1992, five cottages were converted to dorms. In 1993, the Ann E. Thompson Learning Resource Center was built and named for the retired Alabama Cooperative Extension System director in tribute of her support of the Center and to the work of the Board.

The 4-H Foundation Board dedicated the 4-H Conference Building to Terrell and Ann Guthrie for their dedicated service managing the 4-H Center from 1979 until their retirement in 1999.

Throughout its history, the 4-H Foundation Board’s primary objective has been to generate private funding for expansion of facilities at the Center.

In 1994, The Alabama 4-H Foundation Board realized it had reached the successful end of its first major phase of development. For the first time since the initial construction, the 4-H Center was debt free. Activities at the Center were generating funds adequate to cover operating expenses, including high levels of maintenance.

During 1994, nearly 5,000 4-H’ers and other youth took part in 675 programs and activities at the Center, including 601 conducted by Center-based Alabama Cooperative Extension System environmental educators.

The Board voted in June 1994, to determine practical ways in which it could increase its involvement and support of Alabama 4-H. It approved the development of a long-range plan to set forth a clear statement of the 4-H Foundation’s mission and values in order to maintain a true and steady course for future actions.

As a result, a year later the Board adopted The Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. Strategic Plan which reflected the Board’s goals for the next 5 to 10 years. The Alabama 4-H Foundation committed to expanding its reach beyond the development and enhancement of the 4-H Youth Center. The members enthusiastically challenged themselves to add the development and enhancement of 4-H programs statewide to development efforts and the generation of funds to construct a new educational building at the Center.

Fall 2000, the Cooperative Extension System’s strategic plan for a revitalized 4-H was in place. A new 4-H Center manager, Sandra Spencer, committed to build on the facility’s reputation for excellence, was hired to replace Terrell Guthrie, who had retired in 1999.

A new LEED Environmental Education Building

In 2001, a feasibility study was conducted to help prepare for a capital and endowment campaign and to judge the readiness of Alabama residents to help fund improvements to the 4-H Center and endowed programmatic needs.

Based on the results of the feasibility study, the 4-H Foundation in 2002 entered into its first Capital Campaign in more than 40 years – the Campaign for Alabama 4-H – to raise support for 4-H programs statewide and to construct The Alabama 4-H Environmental Science Education Center at The Alabama 4-H Center.

Jack Odle, publisher and editor of Progressive Farmer, was tapped as chairman of the Foundation Board of Directors, and he led Board members and fund development staff to success – raising $7 million in from more than 700 individuals, businesses, foundations, organizations, associations, and state and federal government.

A groundbreaking ceremony for The Alabama 4-H Environmental Science Education Center was held in October, 2006; the Center dedication and celebration was held November 26, 2007. United States Sen. Richard Shelby was the keynote speaker for the dedication and joined in congratulating 4-H.

“This facility will instill in our youth the challenge of the future, and that is energy,” Sen. Shelby said at the Dedication. “How we meet this challenge will be something future generations will solve, and a facility like this will cultivate the minds of our youth. This facility will make a difference.”

A highlight of the day was the release of four red-tailed hawks by the Southeastern Raptor Center, part of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The release was symbolic of 4-H’s commitment to the environment.

This 17,500 square foot facility is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) environmental science education building in the eastern United States and sets a new standard in the state, in 4-H and nationally in teaching Alabama’s children about being environmentally responsible and energy efficient.

In November of 2015 the board developed a strategic plan that would provide updates to the 4-H Center which includes updating an expansion to existing facilities, outdoor spaces, recreation buildings and overnight residential dorms.

In the spring of 2018, the 4-H Foundation embarked on a feasibility study in conjunction with the J.F. Smith Group – an independent fund-raising company – to gauge opinions regarding the strategic direction of Alabama 4-H Foundation and our opportunity for expansion. The study confirmed widespread support for such growth opportunities. Because of the study’s findings, the foundation board initiated The Center of It All: A Capital Campaign by the Alabama 4-H Foundation. With a working campaign goal of $6.3 million and a vision goal of $9.9 million, focusing on three main priorities: land acquisition (Phase I), kitchen & dining expansion (Phase II) and additional overnight residential dorms (Phase III).

The Foundation remains committed to the generation of private funding to meet special youth education needs as identified by 4-H and Extension and recognizes its responsibility to promote and support 4-H statewide through all other appropriate means.

Members of the Board of Directors pledge their personal involvement and commitment, knowing that in doing so they help shape the lives of Alabama youth as they make their individual journeys toward responsible adulthood.

The Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations made to the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation are tax-deductible according to IRS Standards. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) is an equal opportunity educator, employer, and provider. If you need a reasonable accommodation or language access services, contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System HR at (334) 844-1326. © 2024 by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. All rights reserved.