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Questions? Extension has answers

Jason Mlakar, then an Eagle Scout candidate, poses on the Bettendorf bike path with Steve Grimes, left, director of Bettendorf Parks, and Mike Downes, Troop 82 scoutmaster. To earn his Eagle award, Jason organized a group of Scouts to paint a yellow center line and mile markers on the bike path. From bugs to bread, the Cooperative Extension Service has the answers.

CES is the arm of a triad reaching out to make life better for those in rural and urban areas.

The extension service works with the United States Department of Agriculture and University of Illinois, a land-grant university, along with local public and private groups.

In more than 3,100 counties across the nation, 16,000 staff members and 3 million volunteer leaders share information provided by land-grant universities. Cooperative extension is by far the largest, most complex educational institution reaching millions each year.

Its mission is to deliver non-credit and informal educational programs and unbiased researched information generated by the university. Its goal is to help people develop skills, solve problems and improve their families, farms, businesses and communities.

In Illinois, county units are supported by one of 21 CES centers throughout the state. The Quad-Cities Extension Education Center in Silvis serves Rock Island, Mercer, Henry and Whiteside counties, but receives support from others across the state.

Educators in the Quad-Cities' center include Diane Baker, youth development, Paul Elgation, economic development educator, Dave Feltes, integrated pest management and Rich Knipe, animal systems educator. These educators are available to all residents through CES programs.

CES educators and other professionals plan workshops on such topics as estate planning, field crop insects, soil fertility and dozens of other topics. Cost for most programs is minimal.

Programs usually are in response to what individual counties or extension units have found is important through their work with the public.

The most visible CES programs are 4-H and the Master Gardener programs. Each year, thousands of boys and girls in the four-county area, from 8 to 18, enroll in any of hundreds of projects.

Although livestock and home economic projects are the first to come to mind, 4-H'ers can select rocketry, photography, visual arts, public speaking, computer science, even skiing and bowling.

Master gardeners undergo about 60 hours of intense gardening training. In exchange, they volunteer their expertise to the public on everything from pests and fertilizers to plant diseases. What they don't know, they solicit from the university. They also work with youth groups and schools planting gardens.

CES helps families and individuals through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Family and Nutrition Program. There also are programs on Home and Community Education that help people learn recycling and how to manage a home.

CES also is involved in joint programming with Niabi Zoo, RICCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mississippi Valley, Head Start, Project NOW, Quad Cities Youth Conference and the schools.

-- By Pam Berenger (February 2, 1998)

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