24 Apr

Teens can learn what it takes to be a firefighter at West Virginia University Extension Service’s Junior Firefighter Camp, June 3 through June 8 at the State Fire Academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill in Weston.

A refreshing change from the traditional summer camp, this unique experience offers campers the opportunity to further explore their interests in firefighting and emergency response under the direct supervision of trained firefighters and other emergency professionals.

“This camp helps mold young people. Time and time again we hear that if you get a person interested in fire service at a young age, they’re more likely to serve their communities as they get older,” said Mark Lambert, director of WVU Extension Fire Service. “That’s what is at the heart of this camp — cultivating a passion for public service.”

Campers are taught the basics of firefighting and emergency medical services through hands-on training in CPR and first aid, hose line and fire ground operations, ground and aerial ladders and self-contained breathing apparatus.

While a majority of campers are from West Virginia, cultivating a generation of future emergency responders for all communities is a goal for organizers, and teens from outside the state often join in on this transformative experience.

“These teens meet their peers from all over the country and forge new friendships that will serve them for years to come,” said Lambert.

Campers are also provided with more in-depth training in a variety of simulated emergency situations that include both vehicle and airplane fires, wilderness firefighting and search and rescue.

“It’s a great experience. These kids unplug from the digital world allowing them to learn fellowship and comradery, all while gaining valuable skills to help themselves, their communities and their states — now and in the future,” Lambert added.

Registration is open for those interested. Campers must be ages 14 through 17 to participate. The cost is $295 which includes meals, lodging and six required camp T-shirts. Scholarships are available to those who qualify.
The registration deadline is Monday, May 1.

For more information regarding the camp, contact Mark Lambert at 304-269-0875 or visit

The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.


CONTACT: Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service

7 Apr

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Morgantown, W.Va.—Experts from the West Virginia University Extension Service are offering a one-day, hands-on workshop for those interested in producing and marketing dried fruit and vegetable products.

The workshop takes place Thursday, May 11 from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Marshall County WVU Extension Office, 126 Barn Drive, Moundsville, WV 26041.

“This workshop can help producers learn how to dry fruits and vegetables as an additional way to market it, which extends the effective season of which they can sell their goods,” said WVU Extension Agents Cheryl Kaczor and Karen Cox. “However, the training can also help any individual who is just curious about how to safely and properly prepare dried fruit and vegetable products for home use.”

Pre-registration is required and is due by Thursday, May 4, 2017. The cost is $15 (scholarships available) and includes all necessary materials and lunch.

For registration information, contact Cheryl Kaczor at 304-843-1170 or, Karen Cox at 304-234-3673 or or Paul Crumrine at 304-293-8588 or

The workshop is taught by experienced food processing experts, and will address what products are viable for drying, the processes involved, ingredients, product safety, proper packaging and storage and handling, shared facility, marketing and more.

Instructors include food preservation, marketing, business, and food safety experts from WVU Extension Service and Penn State Extension. The program is sponsored by the WVU Extension Service with funding from Branch Banking and Trust company, WVU Public Service Grant, National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE IT Program under Award HRD-1007978, Northeast Extension Risk Management Education and Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety.

For more information on food safety and preservation, visit, or contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service.

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3 Apr

Morgantown, W.Va. – After a nationwide search, Ronnie Helmondollar has been named program director of the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Agriculture and Natural Resources unit, effective Monday, April 3.

No stranger to the WVU Extension Service mission, Helmondollar’s appointment comes after serving on the administration team as the interim program director since 2015 and at the county level with 26 years of experience as an Extension agent.

“Our Agriculture and Natural Resources program is vital to many audiences around the state, from backyard gardeners to some of West Virginia’s largest agricultural operations,” said Steve Bonanno, dean and director of the WVU Extension Service. “I’ve known Ronnie for a long time and the work he accomplished through the years gives me confidence that those programs are in good hands and will continue to flourish as Extension heads into the future.”

From a young age, Helmondollar has been aware of the opportunities that surround him, knowing that sometimes those opportunities come in surprising forms, such as livestock.

Both sets of his grandparents owned small scale agricultural operations, and as he grew up he got firsthand experience with the work involved in being a successful farmer. He saw the value in the work his grandparents did and took it to heart.

“They planted seed for a love of the land and the hard work behind it,” he said.

A few years later, when a friend invited Helmondollar to a 4-H livestock club meeting, his interest was already piqued. Through 4-H, he made connections, got to pursue a passion, and eventually, experienced results of Extension programming.

Helmondollar went on to earn a bachelor’s in agriculture from Ferrum College and a master’s in animal and veterinary sciences from WVU. After graduation, he kept his eyes open for an opportunity with the organization that ignited his passion.

“I took my first job with the WVU Extension Service back in 1991 as a one man operation in Taylor County with three days until 4-H camp opened,” said Helmondollar. “I jumped right in—and I’ve learned a lot through the years, specifically the value of partnerships and a support system for the work we do.”

With more than a decade of service to Taylor County, Helmondollar later took a job as the agriculture and natural resources agent in Randolph County.

While Helmondollar’s work focuses on all things agricultural, he has a professed soft spot for beef cattle production and youth agriculture programming, the latter of which he says was not only vital to him, but vital to West Virginia as a whole.

His future plans include working with faculty and staff to develop and improve programs that meet the needs of West Virginia’s farm families.

“It’s an exciting time to be in agriculture,” said Helmondollar. “During the last State of the State address our Governor has identified agriculture as a major opportunity for the state and as a path to improve West Virginia’s economy — to know we can breathe more life into the state’s future makes our work that much more important.”

Connecting the people of West Virginia to the University’s resources and programs is the primary goal of WVU Extension Service and its 55 offices throughout the state. Local experts, like WVU Extension’s agents and specialists, work to help improve the lifestyles and well-being of youths, workforces, communities, farms and businesses through trusted research in the counties in which they serve.

To learn more about WVU Extension programs, visit, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.



3 Apr

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Morgantown, W.Va.—Come home to West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill and celebrate spring with friends at the April Showers Buffet, held in the historic Mount Vernon Dining Hall in Weston, West Virginia on Sunday, April 9 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The menu will feature fried chicken and tilapia, traditional sides, tossed salad and homemade rolls.

No reservations are needed. There is a $14 admission for adults, $7 for children ages 4-12, and it will be free for children under age 3. Cash, check or credit card payments are accepted.

Guests will also be able to visit the WVU Jackson’s Mill gift shop, where visitors can purchase WVU Extension Service, WVU Jackson’s Mill and West Virginia 4-H related clothing and memorabilia. Items include West Virginia-made jams, jellies and sauces, whole wheat and cornmeal milled on-site as well as folk art related arts and crafts.

For questions about the event, contact Karen Wilfong at 304-406-7011 or

WVU Jackson’s Mill is known for uniting youths from around the state during the summer months for WVU Extension Service’s 4-H camping season. During the winter months, the Mill becomes a festive and scenic event location for the people of West Virginia and their families.

To learn more about WVU Jackson’s Mill or for directions, call 1-800-287-8206 or visit

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23 Mar

Morgantown, W.Va. – While many could argue that times are tough for West Virginia, a bright economic outlook becomes more achievable through well-equipped leaders that can creatively gain resources, motivate their communities and develop sound strategies for the future.

According to some of West Virginia University Extension Service’s faculty, that’s exactly the type of training offered at the Community Leadership Academy — a three-day conference aimed at strengthening leadership from all disciplines and areas of the state.

The conference is now in its fourth year, and the theme is Regeneration: Real Solutions for Real Situations, an emphasis that encourages leaders to take home what they learned and begin applying it in their communities.

Hosted at the Waterfront Marriott Hotel in downtown Morgantown, the conference also lets those in attendance learn through optional, structured experiences that highlight the best of the city with a craft beer tour and a culinary tour.

A full schedule of courses and access to online registration is available at The cost is $245 per person. Student and group discount rates are available. Deadline to register is Friday, April 7.

Attendees can mix or match breakout session topics that include leadership, good governance and economic strategy. It’s a model that, according to organizers, allows leaders to get the most from their experience and get more tools that are relevant to them.

“We don’t want this to be a cold conference where people seldom interact shuffling between sessions — we’re all looking for solutions to help the state we love,” said Kelly Nix, WVU Extension’s community leadership specialist. “We want it to be valuable, practical and most of all, a true step forward in collaboration for the state’s leaders across multiple sectors.”

The Community Leadership Academy has also been approved for local economic development credits with the West Virginia Development Office and continuing education units with WVU.

The academy is organized by WVU Extension Service’s Community Resources and Economic Development program, which strives to provide educational programs and technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of citizens and organizations throughout the state of West Virginia.

WVU Extension Service’s local experts work to help improve the lifestyles and well-being of workforces, communities and businesses through trusted research in the counties in which they serve.

To learn more about the conference, contact Kelly Nix, WVU Extension specialist, at 304-293-8680, or email



23 Mar

Morgantown, W.Va.—Hundreds of West Virginia 4-H’ers and WVU Extension Service representatives will travel to the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 28 to explore opportunities at West Virginia University, meet with legislators and celebrate WVU’s 150th birthday at WVU Day at the Legislature.

Hosted by the WVU Extension Service, the annual event offers participants a unique chance to learn about higher education opportunities afforded to them within their state while getting a firsthand look at the legislative process.

“For many of our 4-H’ers, this is the first time they’ve been to the Capitol or met face to face with WVU representatives or legislators,” said Steve Bonanno, WVU Extension Service dean and director. “It’s important for them to make that personal connection with their state government and learn about the vast opportunities available to them with a higher education experience.”

As part of the day’s festivities, WVU Extension Service will host a birthday gathering in the Capitol’s lower rotunda at noon. The celebration will feature remarks from Bonanno and WVU President E. Gordon Gee as well as a string quartet routine performed by the WVU Creative Arts Center.

Participants will have the chance to sign a giant birthday card to be presented to President Gee, and can also expect to take part in other birthday activities such as an interactive birthday balloon extravaganza card game station and more.

Many of WVU’s units will be present during the event to showcase and educate visitors about their opportunities and purpose. Some of the units that will be at the event include the WVU College of Creative Arts, WVU School of Medicine, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, WVU Extension Energy Express, WVU Jackson’s Mill and Farmstead, the College of Education and Human Services, College of Law and numerous other WVU Extension programs.

For a complete list of exhibitors visit

Attendees can connect to the event via social media by use of the hashtags #WVUDay, and by following @WVUExtension on Twitter and WVU Extension Service on Facebook.

For questions regarding WVU Day at the Legislature, contact the WVU Extension Service Office of Communications at 304-293-4221.

West Virginians can also access the University’s resources by contacting their local county office of the WVU Extension Service, and visiting


28 Feb

Morgantown, W.Va. –The West Virginia University Fire Service Extension reminds those attending house parties, concerts or other large gatherings that being aware is the best way to return home safely should an emergency occur.

According to Mark Lambert, program leader of the WVU Fire Service Extension, the most important thing to take to a party isn’t a potluck dish, beverage or present. It’s mindfulness.

“Getting in to a safety-first mindset isn’t hard — on the way in, take note of where multiple exits are,” he said. “People tend to move with the group in an emergency, and those brief mental notes can be a lifesaver in a situation such as an escalating fire.”

Being constantly aware of your surroundings is key when reacting to an emergency situation, Lambert added.

When entering a large gathering or party, be wary of obvious overcrowding, blocked or locked exits and situations that can lead to structural collapse, such as balconies or small porches with an excessive amount of people on them.

Disaster can strike at any time and not just in a fire-related emergency. When mass hysteria occurs, which is the imaginary fear of danger that can spread rapidly through large crowds, such as those at concerts, it can induce widespread panic and chaos.

According to Lambert, it’s key to remain calm for a safe exit from an emergency situation.

Smoke inhalation can easily disorient a person and their ability to think and act rationally. Remember that alcohol consumption magnifies the effects of carbon monoxide, which is very much present in a burning building. When escaping a burning building, never go back inside to retrieve personal belongings or to find people.

While it is important to know how to behave and react during an emergency, taking the necessary precautions to prevent these emergencies in the first place will reduce the risk of unnecessary stress and injury.

“Safety issues can exist in every situation. It’s a matter of being aware and prepared,” Lambert said. “Use common sense, know your local laws and plan ahead as a host.”

If hosting a large gathering or party, hosts should have pre-established rules and expectations for their guests that should include a smoking policy to prevent an unintentional fire caused by an improperly disposed cigarette butt.

Additionally, be cautious of open flames, such as lit candles and unattended cooking, as these can easily lead to an accidental fire.

Hosts should also be mindful of their respective city codes which outline the amount of people allowed in their residence at a single time. This information can be found at your city fire marshal’s office and may be included in an apartment lease or other official contract or document.

State-level fire codes applies outside city limits but does not apply to one-or two family dwellings.

However, if you are unsure of these codes, Lambert said it is best to rent a facility that can accommodate your gathering and is specifically designed to limit unnecessary risks for both you and your guests.

“Abiding by the rules put in place by the West Virginia Fire Commission is crucial,” he said. “Fire codes exist for a reason and are not made to curb fun, but to ensure the safety of everyone — we want to see everyone have fun while being safe.”

For general information and more tips on fire safety, contact the WVU Fire Service Extension at 304-269-0875 or visit



21 Feb

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Morgantown, W.Va.—West Virginians 18 years or older can now apply for paid positions as AmeriCorps members for the award-winning West Virginia University Extension Service Energy Express program.

The annual initiative is an eight-week reading and nutrition program offered in rural and low-income West Virginia communities. Energy Express helps children entering kindergarten through sixth grade overcome the “summer slide” that occurs when youths fall behind academically during the summers in between school years.

According to John Lyonett, WVU Extension Service 4-H Energy Express interim director, volunteer assistance during the summer helps to make lifelong impacts on children who participate in Energy Express activities. In 2016 alone, participating children were served more than 122,500 meals, and 65.3 percent of participants maintained or increased reading achievement levels.

“This program has helped changed lives and provided support for thousands of children since its inception more than two decades ago,” said Lyonett. “By assisting us in the summer, applicants are helping to ensure our state’s youths are learning, eating well and having fun in a safe, secure environment during the summer.”

Applicants may serve through AmeriCorps as mentors or community coordinators and must be 18 years of age by June 9, 2017 to apply.

Mentor positions

Energy Express mentors must be college, or college-bound, students who are willing to help enhance children’s interests and skills by developing and implementing reading-related activities based on weekly themes. Mentors are also tasked with promoting the children’s nutritional well-being.

Mentors must complete a community service project based on the needs of the community in which they serve. In return for their 300 hours of service, mentors will receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,221 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award valid for up to seven years to pay for college tuition or loans.

Community coordinator positions

Energy Express community coordinators recruit volunteers to assist Energy Express children during reading, writing, art, drama and non-competitive recreation activities. Community coordinators also involve the community and family members in the participating children’s learning.

Community coordinators are also required to complete a community service project based on the needs of the community in which they serve. Community coordinators also receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,221 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award valid for up to seven years to pay for college tuition or loans in return for their service.

Applications for both positions are available online at, or by calling 304-293-3855. The selection process begins March 1. Applications are accepted until all positions are filled.

Energy Express is a program under the leadership of WVU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program. This AmeriCorps program is funded, in part, by grants from the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts and Volunteer West Virginia. Volunteer West Virginia encourages West Virginians of all ages and abilities to be involved in service to their communities.

In 2016, West Virginia’s Promise—The Alliance for Youth recognized the program as the Red Wagon Award recipient for its commitment to helping West Virginia youths learn and grow through summer initiatives. Based on the success of Energy Express participants and the unique aspects of the program, the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University named the Energy Express program one of the nation’s best summer learning programs in 2009.

For more information about Energy Express, visit, or call 304-293-3855.

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20 Feb

CONTACT: Sherry Kuehn, WVU Continuing Professional Education

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Do you or someone you love have diabetes? It is a growing problem in the United States, but the good news is that complications can be avoided by careful management of the disease.

To help people with diabetes take charge of their health, WVU Continuing Professional Education and WVU Extension Service are once again offering the popular online course “Dining with Diabetes,” beginning March 6.

Diabetes, which involves blood sugar levels, can be confusing and challenging.

According to the course instructor, Cindy Fitch, who is associate dean of programming and research at WVU Extension Service, uncontrolled diabetes creates changes in the body that can lead to serious complications, including blindness, lower leg amputation, kidney failure, sexual dysfunction and heart attack or stroke.

“That is the bad news, but the good news is that by learning self-management skills, people with diabetes can completely avoid these problems,” she said.

“One important aspect of self-management that people often overlook is to see their healthcare provider on a regular basis. Also, if you have a prescription for medicine, be sure to take it every day according to the instructions.”

She said other important self-management skills include planning meals for consistent carbohydrate intake, being physically active and checking your feet for sores.

“In general, people with diabetes need to be on a healthy diet that would be appropriate for anyone,” Dr. Fitch said. “However, since diabetes changes how the body handles carbohydrates, people with diabetes need to be more aware of how much carbohydrate they are eating and plan their meals to limit their carbohydrates to just the amount that they need.”

“Dining with Diabetes” will provide guidance on easy ways to manage carbohydrate intake, choosing nourishing foods that support heart health, balancing carbohydrate intake with physical activity and preparing healthier versions of favorite foods.

The course includes two modules for each week. The first module is written information about a specific topic with suggested activities, opportunities for reflection in an on-line journal and an ungraded quiz for participants to test their knowledge.

The second module is a short video cooking demonstration of some diabetes-friendly recipes, which can be downloaded and printed. Class participants can go through the modules at any time during the week that is convenient for them.

The course also includes interactions with Fitch, who is a registered dietitian, and with other participants in the course. This will allow everyone to get answers to their questions and to learn from each other.

“Participants in the course will be encouraged to ask questions, share ideas and connect with other people who have similar goals and struggles,” Fitch said.

“Being able to communicate, even in this format, will help us to support each other and learn from each other. Learning together can be more meaningful than learning alone.”

Cindy Fitch is a registered dietitian with more than 30 years of experience working with children and their families in community, clinical and academic settings. In 1999, she joined the Human Nutrition and Foods faculty at WVU. During that time, she taught undergraduate and graduate level nutrition courses, specializing in maternal and child nutrition. She joined the WVU Extension Service as a food and nutrition specialist in 2007.

“Dining with Diabetes” includes eight sessions and is available online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The cost is $99.

Registration is going on now and is available online at or by calling 1-800-253-2762, #3. Registration closes Friday, March 3.

WVU Continuing Professional Education provides a variety of professional and personal enrichment courses for the lifetime learner. For more information, see the website at or follow WVU CPE on Twitter at @WVUContinuingEd.



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14 Feb

CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

Weston, W.Va.— Join friends at WVU Jackson’s Mill in celebrating the change in seasons at the WVU Jackson’s Mill Spring Buffet.

Featuring a fresh selection of meatloaf and tilapia, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, hot rolls, a salad bar and dessert, the buffet will be held Friday, March 3 from 4:30 to 7 p.m in the Mount Vernon Dining Hall at WVU Jackson’s Mill in Weston, West Virginia.

Admission is $14 for adults and $7 for ages 4 to 12. Admission is free for children ages 3 and under.

No reservations are needed. Cash, check or credit card payments are accepted.

For questions about the events above, contact Karen Wilfong at 304-406-7011 or

WVU Jackson’s Mill is known for uniting youths from around the state during the summer months for WVU Extension’s 4-H camping season, and during the winter months becomes a festive and scenic event location for the people of West Virginia and their families.

To learn more about WVU Jackson’s Mill or for directions, call 1-800-287-8206 or visit

Check daily for the latest news from the University.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

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