4-H Youth Development And Sewing Camp
Published: March 17th, 2023
By: Kelli Miller

4-H Youth Development and Sewing Camp CCE educators teaching sewing techniques to the 4-H youth sewing camp. (Photo submitted)

NORWICH — 4-H Youth Development sewing campers are in classes now, learning sewing skills and creating multiple projects, utilizing both machine and hand sewing. Camps are divided into two different levels. Early learners, the Cloverbuds, become acquainted with sewing tools and Older youth will meet to discuss upcoming week long class in April. They will decide what projects to sew. Completed projects will be displayed at the Council of the Arts on April 13.

CCE Administrator Assistant and Sewing Program Leader, Rhonda Lee Turrell said, “Sewing has been a part of 4-H since 4-H has been in existence. Sewing has taken on different faces, like 4-H clubs taking on their own sewing projects, or individual 4-H youth working with the Master Clothing Textile volunteers. Throughout the years, clothing revues were held to showcase the 4-H youth sewing accomplishments. They were expected to show their projects at the county fair and often at the New York State Fair.”

“The camp has grown greatly over the last few years. Now we start early, helping our young 4-H Cloverbuds ages five to seven years old with sewing skills. We meet on two Thursday evenings in March, then ending their camp on April 3rd. The rest of our 4-H youth start with a Camp meeting in March where we discuss what they will be doing April 3rd through the 7th” Turrell said.

“We have fine-tuned this program, starting with kids on basic sewing skills depending on their age and level of ability, not only with sewing machines but with learning how to hand sew. Each level will sew different projects,” she added.

Turrell explained that the Cloverbuds start with sewing scissors cases, needle holders, and pincushions. Returning Cloverbuds sew microwave snakes and book pillows. Intermediate level youth work on items such as tote bags, skirts, shorts, fleece shirts, and zippered bags. Both levels also complete a hand sewn project.

“We are planning to end our camp by holding a Sewing Spectacular from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. April 13, at the Council of the Arts in Norwich. The kids will be recognized and show their completed projects. Family and friends are invited to the event,” Turrell said.

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Since 2012, campers would gather on their day off from school and then in following years, week-long camps evolved. Now, camps are held for one week in April, during their spring break.

Rhonda Lee Turrell has been sewing for a very long time, beginning in middle school through today. Over the years she has worked as a costume mistress for the Decker School of Ballet, has done bridal alterations at the House of Windsor in Norwich and was the seamstress for Circa Bridal boutique in Hamilton. She was asked to help out the sewing program at CCE in 2012, when her kids were in 4-H and is now employed by CCE and continues to oversee the sewing program.

“Funding comes from a variety of different areas. Chenango County is one of the few remaining counties that does not charge a membership for 4-H program's enrollment. 4-H Leader's Association raises money throughout the year. Donations from community members and volunteers, a TSC initiative called the "Paper Clover Campaign,” and often times, youth set out and use their skills to raise funds. For example, a baked goods sale to fundraise for a trip, after learning how to bake a product. The goal is always in keeping opportunity in reach and finding creative new ways to support the youth,” said Turrell.

“We receive some donation funds from the Chenango Piecemakers Quilt Guild, The Chenango County Leaders/Volunteers Association and material donations from Kids in Need Foundation through JoAnn Fabrics; also, members of the community downsizing their fabric stashes, along with sewing machines they are no longer using.

The 4-H program is now over 100 years old. The association (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County) was established in 1915. Records show sewing projects happening in the 1920's with former CCE educators.

4-H is a worldwide youth development program available in all states and over 80 countries. It’s open to youth ages 5 to 19, who want to have fun while learning new skills and find new adventures in their world around them. Youth who take part in 4-H will find a supportive environment with opportunities to learn about things that interest them. They also will receive confidence, compassion and connections from caring adults that make contributions to surrounding communities, thus supporting a successful life.

“This program would not be possible without the donations of funds, materials and more importantly without the wonderful volunteers that give of their time to our 4-H youth in Chenango County,” she added.

Current local educators are Erica Clark, covering library-based programs, natural resources, and several after-school collaborations with Rogers and Liberty Partnerships Program; Richard Turrell, Volunteer Coordinator for programs in NYS 4-H Shooting Sports, Outdoor Cooking, and Public Presentations; Kristi Gorrell, Agriculture in the Classroom Educator serving four Chenango County schools (roughly 500 kids); Rhonda Turrell, Horse Bowl and Sewing Program leader, and Craig T. Brown, 4-H Program Issue Leader, covering animal science programming, livestock shows and fairs, youth agricultural education, and NYS 4-H State and nationwide initiatives.

4-H Youth, Families, and Communities Issue leader, Craig T. Brown said, “4-H camps take place periodically throughout the entire year. We actually offer programming year-long though, weekly in different locations throughout the community. Many of our clubs also meet weekly. Once enrolled, youth can participate in programs they determine are of interest and take on projects that offer them pathways to growing new skills.”

The mission of Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development is to awaken and support both youth and adults with diverse opportunities that meet community needs.

“4-H is about personal empowerment through hands-on-experiences. We encourage youth input and want them to be as creative as possible. At the same time, we provide youth with the training and support systems they need to be successful and positive contributors to our local community. At CCE Chenango, we value our relationship with these kids and we put our hearts into supporting them. We really care about the kids we have the honor of serving,” Brown said.

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For further information please contact Rhonda Turrell at rlt236@cornell.edu