At 4-H camp? Go ahead and flush

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WINDSOR, Ohio – It wasn’t quite as bad as the inside of a portable toilet on an August afternoon, but the aging septic system at 4-H Camp Whitewood was, well, it was a royal pain.
“It was not as fragrant as we would have liked the last couple of years,” admitted camp Executive Director John King.
Now, King calls it a royal flush.
EPA order. The 226-acre camp, located near Windsor in southern Ashtabula County, was under an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency order to replace its septic system. But raising the nearly $500,000 to fund the construction has been tough.
At times, even campers were encouraged to donate a quarter a day during their camp stay to help fund the project
Over the course of several years, King pieced together grants and low interest loans and construction finally began Jan. 29.
All systems go. On May 3, the camp officially dedicated its new wastewater treatment system, and staff and supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That’s because if the system had not been constructed, King said, there would have been “5,000 campers not coming to camp this summer.”
Big thank you. At the dedication, the camp recognized major players in the project, including Hess Engineering Co. of Newbury, project consultant and manager, and Easton Leasing of Colebrook, the main contractor.
But the primary guests of honor were the agencies and individuals who provided loans, grants or donations.
The camp worked with the USDA’s Rural Development office to receive a federal grant and bridge loan totaling approximately $137,000. Ashtabula County’s Civic Development Corp. made a $40,000 commitment, and the Ashtabula Foundation issued a $60,000 grant.
Over the project’s multi-year span, many individual donations were also received.
The most recent fundraising push came from Farm Credit Services of Mid-America. Employees from Farm Credit’s northeastern Ohio branches wrote for a community service grant from the headquarters in Louisville, Ky. Then, they turned that grant into a community challenge, matching donations to the camp project up to $25,000.
Timely incentive. The extra match incentive was all some donors needed. Ruth Mary Service of Ashtabula County donated $10,000, saying her late husband, Bill, always said if you can turn your dollar into $2 through a matching donation, do it.
The Services have been longtime supporters of Ashtabula County agricultural and youth programs.
And from Mahoning County, a 4-H alumni group thought the challenge was the perfect time to make a donation, too. Marjorie Yerman, Sarah Matkoskey and Ethel Stiver were on hand May 3 to present a $12,000 check to King.
King estimates the donations triggered by the Farm Credit challenge total $32,000.
Farm Credit Service employees also attended to present the lender’s $25,000 donation.
Next phase. Now the camp can begin to upgrade its facilities, King said, progress that was halted because of the OEPA edict.
“We couldn’t add a bathroom anywhere in camp until we got this done,” he explained.
He’s hoping a bigger kitchen and a bathroom in the dining hall will be built by next summer.
Go ahead and flush. An 8-inch high gag toilet stood on the front table as King talked last week, and if you pushed the toilet “handle,” it made a whooshing, flushing sound.
As he wrapped up his formal remarks at the dedication ceremony, King invited donors and friends to come up and flush the little toilet as many times as they liked.
Reaching over and triggering the lifelike flushing noise on last time, King said simply, “What a relief!”
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

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