4-H Youth Development



History of Kentucky 4-H Foundation

For over 40 years, this organization – now called the Kentucky 4-H Foundation – has supported one mission: to advance the Kentucky 4-H Program. Today’s Foundation has undergone substantial changes and has evolved from the original Friends of Kentucky to become an independent, non-profit partner of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development.

Kentucky Cooperative Extension is funded by local, state, and federal appropriations, but few of these funds are available for awards, teaching resources, volunteer training, and event expenses. In 1973, Conrad Feltner, State 4-H Leader, began to contact alumni and business people across the state sharing the need for an entity which could accept and handle private contributions and organize a group of people willing to assist in raising these funds. On October 18, 1973, that idea became a reality. Eleven business people joined Mr. Feltner and formed the Friends of Kentucky 4-H. At the meeting, Tommy Cole, State 4-H Association president (known today as Kentucky 4-H president), a teen from Warren County, gave a speech on 4-H.

Julia Kurtz, a 4-H alumna who had recently graduated from law school was asked to draw up the Articles of Incorporation, which were unanimously adopted by the Board of Directors on March 19, 1974. The founding officers were:

  • Jodie George (Standard Oil), President;
  • Robert Miller, Vice President;
  • Lynwood Schrader (Kentucky Utilities), Secretary; and
  • John Henderson (Southern States Cooperative), Treasurer.

Other founding members included:

  • Barry Bingham, Sr. (Courier-Journal Times);
  • Maurice Denton (Federal Land Bank of Louisville);
  • J. R. Underwood, Jr. (Kentucky LP Gas Association;
  • Bob Miller (Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperatives);
  • Ray Huddleston (Lily Mills);
  • Wendell Howard (Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance);
  • Charlotte Tharp (WHAS Television); and
  • Terry Trovato (Standard Oil).

Construction of the Kentucky Leadership Center became the first major fundraising effort for Friends. The multi-million dollar, full-service conference center was built and opened in 1986. For the next 15 years, fundraising efforts mainly relied upon the sale of the annual 4-H/UK calendars, in addition to the Directors hosting some type of area fundraiser, which included dinners, golf scrambles, and other special events.

In 2002, Friends received the largest single contribution to date when the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board awarded $2 million from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund to establish an endowment. Income from the invested funds would be used for venture grants within the Kentucky 4-H program. Around the same time, leadership of the Board began to plan for the day when the organization would have its own executive director and transition into a fully-committed fund development entity supporting Kentucky 4-H.

Friends hired its first full-time executive director in April 2005 in an effort to broaden its fundraising efforts to include online contributions, direct mail campaigns, personal solicitations to individuals, organizations, and businesses, and special fundraising events. In 2008, Friends of Kentucky 4-H, Inc., changed its name to Kentucky 4-H Foundation, Inc., to better reflect the mission and goals of today’s organization. Also in 2008, former State 4-H president Keith Rogers was named the new executive director.

During its 40 year history, Kentucky 4-H Foundation has evolved. Its main mission, however, has remained the same: to advance the Kentucky 4-H Program. Today, the Foundation manages the assets of nine endowments, provides financial management for more than 60 4-H programs with annual expenditures of over $1 million, and performs fundraising to support Kentucky 4-H.