The Adventure Continues
Perspectives On Line: The Magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

NC State University

Summer 2003 Home Features Moving Forward True Scholarship Little Treasures Columbia's Gem The Adventure Continues
The XX FactorCollege Profile
Noteworthy News Alumni Giving Items of Interest From the Dean College of Agriculture & Life Sciences  


































The Sertoma hotel veranda adds to the center's appeal to adult retreat groups. (Photo by Art Latham)




















At the Sertoma 4-H Education Center are (from left) Alan Thomas, director of the center; Jim Womble, president of the Winston-Salem Sertoma Club; and Larry Hancock, director of North Carolina 4-H camps and centers. (Photo by Art Latham)





































This creek flows within Millstone's 360 acres of undisturbed forest. (Photo by Art Latham)

'The Adventure Continues': Community support helps ensure that 4-H educational centers will still be there for future campers. --- By Art Latham
Complete with a millstone in its chimney stands the dining hall at Camp Millstone (below, left; photo by Art Latham), one of the five 4-H Education Centers that is a popular summer destination for hundreds of young campers, such as these (below, right; photos by Communication Services).

ornate letter A ttending a 4-H camp in North Carolina has always guaranteed a great summer adventure. Back in the day, young campers brought their own food: live chickens, eggs and milk cows. Parents and other volunteers led activities and chaperoned, and camps bustled only during summer vacation.

Today’s 4-H campers enjoy nutritious meals from camp kitchens, and while 4-H still highly values volunteers, trained professionals direct camp activities. North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s five residential 4-H camps – now called education centers — also offer adult leadership programs and public retreat facilities.

These camps — one brand-new and four still occupying the same sites familiar to generations of campers — offer fun and learning to 4-H school groups, day and traditional week-long 4-H campers. As education centers, they also introduce thousands of potential 4-H’ers and community members to 4-H programs, while holding the budgetary bottom line, since the camps’ primary funding is through the revenue they generate.

These centers encompass about 2,127 acres and 150 structures. As many as 784 campers can now overnight at all the camps. That’s due to increase to almost 1,000 when more Eastern Center facilities are complete in 2007.

“ Except for our newest camp – the Eastern
4-H Environmental Education and Conference Center near Columbia — maintenance and repair require increasingly larger budget chunks,” says Larry Hancock, the N.C. Cooperative Extension specialist responsible for overall management and operation of North Carolina 4-H camps and centers.

Developing new programs and adding equipment and quality staff to develop curricula and plan and direct programs also take funding, but 4-H’ers are noted for their ability to rise to challenges.

“ We’re looking at creative resource development,” says Benita Budd, development director for 4-H camps. “That means more partnerships with businesses, nonprofits and the communities the camps serve.

“ Perhaps most important is the camp alumni base, the former 4-H’ers who participated in camp and had a wonderful residential camping experience,” she says.

As budgets tightened in the past several years, one camp — Swannanoa, near Asheville – faced an uncertain future. It bounced back due to an upwelling of community support and partnerships dedicated to excellent youth education programs, Budd says.

In 2001, Swannanoa, the granddaddy of North Carolina’s 4-H camps, was briefly closed when a funding crunch coincided with a vacant camp director position.

But, as Budd notes, “Community members heard they were going to lose Swannanoa and began a grassroots fundraising effort. In less than a month, they raised enough to hire a director to keep the camp in operation.”

That director, Chris Weaver, offers “self-discovery” programs that complement the camp’s mountain heritage center identity, with local experts teaching their skills. An advisory board of community members, 4-H professionals, retirees and camp alumni has developed a strategic plan to ensure Swannanoa’s success.

Farther east, but still in a mountainous setting, Sertoma 4-H Education Center is the newest incarnation of a phoenix-like institution in existence since the 1890s.

At the turn of the 20th century, the 800-acre site was a popular mineral springs resort named Vade Mecum (Latin: come with me). The original owner willed his property, including a two-story, wood frame fin de siecle hotel, to be used to “enhance the lives of children in educational, religious or scientific endeavors.” The Episcopal church sponsored camps on the sprawling, bucolic grounds until the Yadkinville and Winston-Salem Sertoma clubs bought Vade Mecum. Sertomans operated camps at the site for several years before deeding it to N.C. State University in 1981. The 4-H program, through the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and the Sertoma Club, dedicated the facility as a 4-H Education Center in 1982.

In 1993, the camp welcomed another partnership: The N.C. Bankers’ Association helped develop and sponsor Camp Challenge, a nationally recognized program for high-achieving middle-school students from low-resource backgrounds. Youngsters spend a week learning leadership, financial management, literacy and other success-oriented skills, as well as enjoying all the fun of a traditional 4-H camp.

Hancock notes that Sertoma’s idyllic locale draws many “alumni” whose hearts forever nostalgically recall the hotel’s verandas and vistas. Work days and other donations by the Vade Mecum Society, 4-H Honor Club, Sertoma Clubs and the N.C. Bankers’ Assocation help offset the high maintenance and improvement costs that accompany such a historic property, he says.

Campers may not need to tote their own live food to camp these days, but, as always, the enthusiasm of camp alumni and community members still nourishes the 4-H camping program.

“ Their vision for the future,” says Hancock, “is absolutely vital to sustaining the critical resources that are our 4-H Education Centers.”

Here’s a look at North Carolina’s five 4-H education centers. While all offer camping mainstays like boating, swimming, crafts, campfires, songs and “s’mores,” each tailors unique programs to its history, location and educational niche.

Swannanoa (founded 1929): 150 acres in the Great Craggy Mountains 15 minutes east of Asheville. Open spring to fall, with five miles of mountain trails, a large organic garden and apple orchard, its eight cabins can host 160 overnighters, as well as school and private rental groups and custom educational programs. Chris Weaver, director: 828.686.3196; e-mail:

Local skilled instructors work with campers at “self-discovery” residential camps. Youngsters choose from several workshops daily with veteran instructors in visual and performing arts, crafts, outdoor adventures, science, nature and sustainable living.

In Swannanoa’s newly initiated day camps, enrollees enjoy a summer-long “barefoot science” camp or workshops in visual arts, drama and dance, outdoor adventure and sustainable living skills, led by many of the same instructors who teach for the residential camps.

* Special treat: A 19th century Cherokee cabin in a forest-ringed living history “Indian settlement.”

Millstone (established 1939): Nestled on 360 acres of undisturbed forest within the 60,000-acre Sandhills Wildlife Management Gamelands near Ellerbe. Open March through November, with 14 lakeside cabins in the tall pines to host 140 overnight campers. From June to August, one-week general sessions for 8-to-13-year-olds provide age-appropriate, non-competitive small-group experiences. Gene Shutt, director: 910.652.5905; e-mail:

Millstone’s name refers to the hand-quarried granite grinding stones once quarried from its grounds for Carolina gristmills. Programs center around a state-of-the-art shooting sports education building, two combination trap and skeet fields, ranges for small-bore rifle, 100-yard rifle range and archery and 3-D archery ranges. All ranges are controlled-access and use highly qualified trainers.

Six barns, 120 stalls and four riding rings support Millstone’s horse program. At the June Horsemanship Camp, 4-H’ers from age 9 to 19 with their own horses improve their riding and showing skills, guided by highly qualified instructors through lectures, riding lessons, judging contests, trail rides and training demonstrations.

Millstone’s annual Fur, Fish and Game Rendezvous in June (this year’s was the 21st) and its advanced component are two of the most popular 4-H camps, says Gene Shutt, camp director.

Kids ages 12 to 15 study wildlife, forests, aquatic biology and game management and earn a hunter safety certificate. Other related classes: snake identification, birds of prey, wildlife photography, taxidermy and orienteering, swimming and other traditional camp activities. Rendezvous graduates can learn more through advanced classes. Campers ages 11 to 16 can participate in the Target Sports Minicamp to learn firearm safety, skeet and trap shooting, archery and riflery — including black powder — equipment cleaning and maintenance, proper gun and archery equipment storage and a lot of target shooting.

*Special treats: A secluded, rocky, rushing stream whose montane nature seems almost eerie in the low-lying Sandhills and a pontoon and suspension bridge over the lake.

Betsy-Jeff Penn (dedicated 1964): The camp, on 200 acres near Reidsville, was originally part of Chinqua-Penn Plantation, owned by Betsy and Jeff Penn, who donated the land and built the 4-H summer camp. The center evolved into a multi-faceted educational site with year-round programming.

Betsy-Jeff Penn’s eight A-frame cabins can host 168 campers for environmental education and team-building sessions. In fall and spring, the camp features environmental education, team-building and high ropes courses. Jeff North, director: 336.349.9445; e-mail:

*Special treats: Lakefront for boating and swimming, nearby cliffs for hiking and rock climbing.

In rain or shine, 4-H campers have plenty to do, from boating at Betsy-Jeff Penn (above; photo by Communication Services) to climbing the wall at Sertoma (below; photo by Art Latham).

Sertoma (acquired 1980): Open mid-March to mid-November, Sertoma hugs 800 acres of Dan River slopes near Hanging Rock State Park. The camp’s 16 cabins accomodate 160 campers and the hotel’s 16 historic rooms accomodate counselors, volunteers and adult retreat groups. Alan Thomas, director: 336.593.8057 or 336.593.3210; e-mail:

Sertoma 4-H Center concentrates on specialty camps, including Camp Challenge and the (Gen. Hugh) Shelton Leadership Camps, inaugurated in 2003, as well as the Sertoma Club’s Deaf Camp for hearing-impaired children ages 8 to 16.

Sertoma’s 4-H teen camper groups enjoy adventure-based activities: canoeing, a rock-climbing trip to nearby Hanging Rock State Park, and overnight camping. Younger campers, mostly at an outpost site, learn cooking, camping and outdoor living skills.

The center also offers family, church, civic, professional or youth group retreats, with cabin camping and residential living.

*Special treat: Old-time mineral springs and spring houses on the Dan River, huge swimming pool, rocking chairs on the hotel’s front porch and balcony.

The Eastern 4-H Environmental Education and Conference Center (dedicated 2001): Uniquely designed to serve both youth and adults, this newest facility sprawls over 242 wooded wetlands acres near Columbia, including waterfront on Bull’s Bay.

The Eastern Center is open year-round. The center currently accommodates 108 resident campers and will sleep 160 when additional youth lodges are funded. In addition, 20 executive rooms accommodate 40 to 60 adults, and separate conference rooms, classrooms and dining halls allow for joint use by youth and adult groups in a climate-controlled environment. Greg Hall, center
director: 252.797.4800; e-mail:

* Special treats: Marine science and sailing, environmental education and a super ropes course.

Send a 4-H'er to Camp!

An exciting new program will provide additional support to send deserving youth to 4-H camp. 4-H camps are available to all North Carolina children, but due to limited family resources, some of our outstanding youth are unable to attend. To address this need, the N.C. 4-H Development Fund has established a program entitled “Send a 4-H’er to Camp.” Partial scholarships begin at $25, and full scholarships are $300. If you’d like to provide a partial or full scholarship and give a child the same camping experience you had as a child, you may contact the 4-H Development Fund.

For information, please call 919.515.9267 or visit our Web site at

Previous PageTop of Page Next Page