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West Virginia Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star creates youth agriculture fund for WVU Extension

Boy working with his lamb at a market show

The West Virginia Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star has designated over $15,000 to create the Order of the Eastern Star WV Youth in Ag Fund.

This fund will be used on an as-needed basis for the West Virginia University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources unit to support youth programming in conservation, agriculture and natural resources across the state. The Chapter announced the donation during a celebration luncheon on Oct. 6.

“I’ve recognized over the years that youth in ag programs are always looking for support, whether that be for travels, competitions, or educational materials for the state,” Bill Shockey, WVU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, said.

Shockey also was one of the leaders of the West Virginia Grand Chapter for 2021-2022, known as the Worthy Grand Patron. The Order of the Eastern Star is a philanthropic organization that raises money for different causes each year. Members are either Masons or have a Masonic affiliation. Some causes supported by the organization include cancer research, veterans support, training of service dogs and cardiac research.

Each year, both the Worthy Grand Matron and Patron get to choose a special fundraising project and lead that effort. For his project, Shockey chose to lead a project for youth in agriculture, which is something the organization has never done before.

“It’s very important that young people learn about agriculture and get those experiences because many families don’t live on the farm anymore,” Shockey said. “People used to understand where food came from and how it was produced, but there’s a big disconnect right now; people just don’t know. It’s important to get that education while they are young, so this generation has a good idea of how it really works.”

To fundraise for this project, Shockey and other members of his chapter visited each chapter in West Virginia, which is around 70 groups across the state. After learning about the project, each chapter donated to the fund in some capacity. They also sold tickets to raffle off half a beef to help raise more money for the fund.

“Getting our state’s young people involved in youth agriculture programs is critical to the future of agriculture and conservation in West Virginia, and this fund will help us ensure these programs continue,” Ronnie Helmondollar, program director of the WVU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources unit, said. “In addition to learning about where food comes from, youth agriculture programs help kids learn to be more confident, become critical thinkers and problem solvers, work as a team, and so many other valuable skills.”

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

If you would like to invest in the future of youth agriculture, 4-H’ers or other important WVU Extension programs, contact Lauren Seiler, director for development, WVU Extension at 304-293-5692 or email

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