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Extension Office celebrates eight decades of service

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By Maryellen Garrison

On Sunday, Jan. 23, the Henry County Extension Council hosted a celebration at Twin Oaks in New Castle to celebrate extension memories dating as far back as 1925.

Carl Malone, from Iowa, was the first extension agent in Henry County. His funding was provided through the local banks of the county as well as the Eminence Chamber of Commerce. The Henry County Local agreed to allow Mr. Malone to set up an office with them in an unused room at no charge. He began his work with a desk, chair and a crate for a file cabinet. Mr. Malone said that there was a young editor at the paper that really helped him to become a part of the community. After his first year he was so well received for his work that the county decided to continue paying the $600.00 required to fund an extension program.

Bina Foree was hired as our first Home Demonstration Agent in 1939. The story has long been told that the county really needed a stoker for the furnace at the courthouse and the county had to decide which was needed more: a stoker or a home demonstration agent. The county officials decided to hire Foree, and some referred to her as “Stoker” from that time on. Foree often told her family that her most memorable 4-H moment was an accident involving taking 4-Her’s to summer camp in 1945. Fifty-eight children were riding in a cattle trailer on hay bales and she was following behind in her car. When she turned a curve to her great surprise she found the trailer had been forced of the road and that six 4-Her’s were injured and three were hospitalized in Shelbyville. She said that Henry County did not make it to camp that year.

Margaret Hayden was one of those campers hospitalized. Margaret tells the story that she was thrown from the trailer and rolled down an embankment. Her arm was broken and as they got to the hospital they took a look at her arm and she was covered in poison ivy, so they could not put a cast on it until the poison ivy calmed down. Margaret still had the copy of her hospital bill which totaled $200. Her three day stay was $7 and the x-ray for her arm was the huge cost at $12. The man that forced them off the road was fined $22. Fortunately, this incident did not keep Margaret from becoming more involved in 4-H and later becoming an outstanding club leader in Campbellsburg.

The first official 4-H agent was Wayne Sininger hired in 1956. Previously the Agriculture Agent and Home Demonstration Agent would hold youth programs. The 4-H clubs during that time were community clubs and lead by community volunteers. Every elementary school and high school had its own club. During this time the club 4-H talent shows became quite the competition among 4-H community clubs. There are many pictures of elaborate costumes and backdrops over the next 20 years, so that “bragging rights” could be held for the year. By the early 1970s the talent shows became so well attended that they held to be held at the Henry County High School gym.

Henry County is fortunate to have several agents over the years to make Henry County their home. Jim Prewitt served extension for 30 years and after his retirement in 1983 he continued to volunteer his help in all areas of extension. Katie Sue Brumagen Yount came to Henry County in 1964 as a Home Economics Agent and then transferred to the 4-H agent position. This past summer Katie Sue and husband Robbie hosted a Farm to Table field day for all of the 4th graders in the county. Steve Moore came to Henry County straight from graduation from UK in 1974 as the 4-H agent and then moved into the agriculture position following Mr. Prewitt’s retirement. Maryellen Garrison has served as the Henry County Extension Agent since 1986 and has helped Henry County Homemakers through many changes and challenges over the past 25 years. Cathy Robinson Toole came on board as 4-H agent in 1997. Cathy was one of the first agents hired to serve the county in which they grew up. Until this time, all agents had to live in the county they served and could not serve the county in which they grew up. Steve, Maryellen and Cathy now hold the distinction of serving the people of Henry County longer in their positions than any other agent before them. Annmarie Ivers has served as Henry County Extension secretary for 23 years, which is also the longest time served as any secretary.

The number of volunteers that have served the county over the last 86 years has been the extension programs greatest asset. A slide show presented throughout the program and the tables full of memorabilia speaks volumes about the dedication of the people of Henry County. There were more than 100 people in attendance Sunday afternoon for the remembrance. The Henry County Extension Council and agents want to say thanks for the memories.