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August 23, 2011   Email to Friend 

August 23, 2011

W. Gaines Smith has served in various leadership positions within the Alabama Cooperative Extension System for the past 45 years.
COLUMBIANA, Ala. - Longtime Alabama Cooperative Extension System Director W. Gaines Smith has left his mark on the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, and in turn, the Foundation has etched his name into its future.

The Foundation has named its environmental science education building at the Alabama 4-H Center near Columbiana after Smith, and thousands of students for years to come will pass through its doors to learn about agriculture and conservation.

"I am overwhelmed, humbled and very proud of this honor," Smith said. "I could never have dreamed of this occasion when I started my 4-H experience in 1952 as a 4-H member at Hicks Memorial School. It's a long way from there."

Smith has held leadership positions in the Extension System at the county, district, regional and state levels for 45 years. He has led ACES through times of tight budgets, organizational downsizing and the redesign of the programming process. He currently serves on the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees.

"Without Gaines Smith and his unshakeable belief in the needs of our youth and this center, this building could not and would not have been built," said Jack Odle, immediate past chairman of the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation's board of directors, who is editor and publisher of Progressive Farmer. "He never waivered in his support."

Thomas Elliott, chief financial officer of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said Smith has supported Extension programs by allocating Extension funds, personnel, equipment, supplies and even his own money.

"He dug into his personal pocket many times and found ways to support the 4-H program," Elliott said.

Erin O'Mary, president of the Alabama 4-H State Council, spoke on behalf of more than 78,000 Alabama 4-H'ers, thanking Smith for his unwavering support of Alabama 4-H.

"Eight years ago when I began to fill out my first 4-H application, I had no idea 4-H would lead me to experience, achieve and belong to so much," O'Mary said. "4-H has given me the opportunity to become a photographer, woodworker, speech giver and leader. Some of the most joyous events in my life have happened on this very stage, and I can only imagine what the W. Gaines Smith Environmental Science Education Building will bring to others in its future."

The $5.5 million environmental science education building is the first gold-certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) environmental education building in the eastern United States.

Since its doors opened in 2007, the building has been used by more than 18,000 youth for a variety of educational programs. The facility has set a new standard in teaching Alabama's children to be environmentally responsible and energy efficient.

The Alabama Farmers Federation, Alfa Insurance and several county farmers federations donated a combined total of more than $350,000 to help construct the $7 million facility.

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