From her front row seat, Sarah Nyen is glued to the 4-H cat show Saturday at the Winnebago County fairgrounds. The 11-year brought three of her cats...and she did well early on. "I got an 'A' with my oldest cat that's 12 years old," Nyen said. She is one of around 500 kids in Winnebago County who participate in 4-H. She's competed for two years and is a big fan. "Just getting ready to show animals and learn more about animals," Nyen said. Luckily for her and the other kids, those opportunities will continue...thanks to a much-needed 20-thousand dollar funding boost from Winnebago County. "Instead of thinking, oh my gosh, what are we going to lose next, we've got it covered for this year at least," said Mary Ann Arenson, a 4-H leader.
The 4-H club has operated in "the red" for the last four years. In the past three years, the group cut three positions, including a horticulture instructor and an afterschool teacher working with at-risk youth. The classes they taught had to go too. Arenson says the new money will not only maintain programing but also draw more volunteers. "It won't be that fear, I'll put all this time and training into it and the whole thing is going to fold. We'll be able to say we're still here and we're going to be here," Arenson said. And that's good news for 4-H'ers like Nyen...who look forward to spending more time showing off their prized possessions. The funding from the county brings the group's allocation to about 55-thousand dollars. And the county plans to continue that annually as long as it can. County board member Doug Aurand says the increased funding had a lot of support from his counterparts. He adds that the 4-H Club has proven in the past that it does good work.