Jefferson County Commission

What Do the H’s Mean in 4H? A Lot

Lisa M. Jones, county extension coordinator for the Jefferson County office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Joe Knight interrupted today’s committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission with a quiz.

“Tell me what the four H’s are,” he said, referring to the 4H Club, a staple of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Knight stumped the room, acknowledging, “I don’t know them.”

That was strangely appropriate as many people know little, if anything, about the extension system, including that the 4 H’s come from the organization’s original motto of head, heart, hands and health, which were later incorporated into the fuller pledge officially adopted in 1927.

The County Commission will shed light on the Jefferson County office of the Extension System when it meets in Bessemer Thursday with a proclamation for Alabama Extension Week.

Lisa M. Jones, county extension coordinator for the Jefferson County program, said it’s not surprising what people don’t know about the extension service.

“We consider ourselves the best kept secret in Alabama, and that’s why we’re making this effort statewide to really get the word out this week,” Jones said. “All over the state. Governor (Kay) Ivey has signed a resolution.

“There will be events,” she continued. “We’ll be at the Magic City Classic with the Alabama A&M mobile nutrition lab, having a healthy tailgate. Auburn (University is) having events. All of our schools are having kind of like weekend tailgate events, things like that.”

Jones said the extension service’s relative anonymity is in stark contrast to it’s having more than a century of history.

“We’re well more than 100 years old,” she said. “I think it’s because we’re busy doing the work rather than telling our story.”

Jones cited an agent who is leading a 4H program at Phillips Academy in downtown Birmingham and another working with a master gardener group.

“They’re all over and they’re all doing their work,” the coordinator said. “We’re just kind of doing our jobs. Every now and then, though, we’ve got to remember to tell our story.”

Mental Health Care for Youthful Offenders

During the committee meeting, commissioners moved to Thursday’s agenda an extension of the county’s contract with Mechi Mental Wellness LLC for psychiatric services to residents at G. Ross Bell Youth Detention Center. Director Monique T. Grier said Mechi has made a difference.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen substantial decline in the rate of violence between residents and residents against staff,” she said. “So much so that even their probation officers or the counselors, those that come from the court, have noticed a dramatic change.”