The Jekyll Island 4-H Center is home to so many of my 4-H memories.
I came to camp here once, and attended Senior 4-H Conference each spring.
The annual Master 4-H Club weekend at Jekyll reminds me of those Senior Conferences. It seems like as soon as we show up, it’s time to head home!
This year, though, we’re taking extra photos and reminiscing about favorite memories, unsure of what the future holds.
Master 4-H Club is made up of 4-H’ers who won at the state level during their 4-H years, from Connie Potts’ win in 1939 to Dexter Wilkins’ award just this year. Everyone gets together for three events a year, bringing friends and family to meet again, or meet anew.
All the square dancing, the different people who have joined us each year, the sandcastles … the list just goes on and on.
There was also the year we celebrated Dr. Pinckney’s 90th birthday (he celebrates 93 in just a few weeks). What would camp be without Dr. Pinckney?
And that’s exactly what we have to remember as we move on this year, because we’ll all still be here next time, but the center will be a new place.
The Dolphin Club
Some people still remember the center by its original name, the Dolphin Club and Motor Hotel.
It was opened in 1959 for African-American visitors to the island, along with the Dolphin Club Lounge and Restaurant and the St. Andrews Auditorium. Newton County residents T.K. and Louise Adams even honeymooned at the new hotel!
With integration just a few years later, Georgia residents of every skin tone were able to visit any place on the island, and the buildings eventually became the 4-H Center in 1983.
Over the years, of course, there have been relatively minor changes in order to preserve the structure and keep people filling the rooms week after week. But this next year or two will be far different.
Earlier this year, the center was turned over to the Jekyll Island Authority.
I’ve been told that the promise is that 4-H activities at the center will not be diminished by the changes, but, of course, only time will tell what changes will take place here.
The 4-H Center is home not only to 4-H conferences and camps during the summer, but also to year-round environmental education by the University of Georgia and 4-H. This place is always full.
Right now, there is much going on, with surveying and cataloguing of the center, and soon they’ll know what must be preserved, or what can be torn down, according to the state’s standards.
Master plans will be adjusted or redrawn, and architects will soon make a timeline for what is to happen.
The hope is that construction will interrupt current educational activities as little as possible, depending on where new structures are to be built.
In the end, I expect we’ll see housing more similar to that at other 4-H centers, with spacious rooms full of bunk beds and an adult room attached to each cabin or cottage.
It won’t quite be the feeling of a motel full of bunks anymore.
The current master plan also calls for new dining and recreation facilities, a pool, and beautiful plantings around a newly designed parking area.
I’m sure it will be a beautiful place, and I can’t wait to make new memories with all our 4-H alumni friends and family when the new 4-H center on Jekyll Island opens.
As someone said last night, it won’t matter what the housing is like; what will matter is that we’re all still here.
The kids will ride their bikes in circles, Don Shamp will keep calling the square dances, we’ll build a few more sandcastles, and, of course, we’ll celebrate another birthday with Dr. Pinckney.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Terri Kimble Fullerton is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.