ST. CLAIR CO., Ill. - Budget cuts could threaten a long-time tradition in the Metro East. Now some St. Clair County families are wondering about their kids' futures. And they're asking county officials to change their minds.
Katie Dennis loves animals. And it's a good thing she does, because her family's St. Clair County farm has plenty.
“We have chickens, Angus cows, two goats and my favorite horse, Savannah. She's my girl,” said Dennis.
Farm life led Dennis to 4-H and the life-long skills it teaches.
“It gives kids the opportunity to have responsibilities,” said Dennis.
Showing animals at the 4-H State Fair also gives kids like Dennis a chance at scholarships. And after moving around the country with her Air Force family, Dennis says the program gave her stability.
“It's something you can look forward to and you know is going to be there.”
But an email sent Thursday is casting some doubt. It says St. Clair County cut funding for 4-H and it will have a big effect on staffing and programming.
“The county board is missing an opportunity here to pour back into the kids,” said Katie's dad, Darin Dennis, a 4-H parent volunteer. “And it's not just farm kids. There's a whole group at Scott Air Force Base and they do nothing but indoor projects. What we're really concerned about is if the funding keeps going down that we may end up losing our St. Clair County 4-H.
“If that wasn't there, it would be sad,” added Katie Dennis.
With or without 4-H, the young woman will stay busy on her family's farm. But she hopes funding won't be dumped for good.
“The clubs are like a little mini family of farmers. And I think without that life would get boring.”
In an email to Five on Your Side, the St. Clair County 4-H Extension Director said the program "will continue through realignment of responsibilities."
The email to families also encouraged 4-H groups to fundraise and contact local lawmakers about the funding.