Since 1956, the Kettunen Center has served Michigan 4-H teens and adults as a location for educational workshops. Through this time, it is has become cherished by those who attend because of its impressive outdoor features, its beautiful facilities and its welcoming staff. Although the Kettunen Center is commonly used to host teen and adult leader workshops and conferences, more workshops are being organized that engage a younger crowd. The Michigan 4-H Winterfest event is one of the most influential of this type.
4-H Winterfest is one of Michigan 4-H’s most popular workshops with attendance of over 150 4-H youth between the ages of 9 and 12. The overnight event takes place during early February and allows youth to learn about exciting project areas, have fun doing wintertime activities and meet youth from across the state.
“Winterfest is a great learning experience and encourages youth to be independent while meeting others from all over the state,” said Beverly Przystas, MSU Extension 4-H educator and 4-H Winterfest planning committee member. “Offering youth an overnight experience in a dorm setting with their friends allows them to try something new and take it back to their individual counties.”
Participants have the opportunity to engage in hands-on sessions with topics including animal science, cooking, arts and crafts, food science, money management, healthy living and basic science. With an array of possible activities, young 4-H members explore everything the Kettunen Center has to offer from learning to cook in the kitchen to snowshoeing on the trails.
“4-H Winterfest is a great opportunity to come and explore the Kettunen Center and do things that normally you’re not taught about or you don’t have the chance to do,” said Veronica Lofquist, Osceola County 4-H member. “Winterfest is just a great way to get to know people.”
Initially designed as an East Central Region event, Winterfest quickly gained interest with a lengthy waiting list of youth who wanted to attend, but couldn’t due to the limited space and volunteer capacity. Since its move to the Kettunen Center, the workshop has grown to one of the largest statewide 4-H workshops, filling the center to its capacity, still with a waitlist of youth wishing to attend.
Winterfest builds an early love of the Kettunen Center that will persist through adulthood and encourage lifelong learning as Winterfest attendees continue to return to the center for teen and volunteer workshops in the future. The Kettunen Center holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Adults must pass this adoration on to their children at an early age for them to understand the power the Kettunen Center and 4-H has.
4-H workshops, including Winterfest, are partially funded through gifts and grants to the Michigan 4-H Foundation, significantly reducing the cost for 4-H participants to attend these educational opportunities at Kettunen Center.
To learn more, view the 4-H Winterfest video at: https://youtu.be/5nzz89nRSmw.
Kettunen Center, Michigan 4-H’s volunteer and youth development training facility, was fortunate enough to have two new endowment funds created this past year to support the maintenance and long term care of Kettunen Center facilities and its adjacent grounds. Support from these funds can also be used to sustain 4-H educational programs there.
An endowment is a fund that is permanently restricted – the corpus of the fund is invested and held intact, and the earnings from the fund are used for program support. Endowments provide a dependable and perpetual source of funding that, combined with other annual support, assures that 4-H opportunities are always available for youth.
These newly established endowment funds will not only support Kettunen Center in perpetuity, but will also serve as permanent memorials.
The Francis H. and Ingrid E. Thacker Endowment for Kettunen Center was created in memory of Francis Thacker by his wife, Ingrid Thacker, in appreciation for the positive influence of 4-H in Francis’ life.
“4-H was really the beginning of his life,” Ingrid Thacker said. “He was able to spend time with his brother. Those years really played a big role in their lives. It is really a good thing for kids to go through 4-H.”
Francis was a 4-H member and took great pride in his 4-H achievements. He went on to manage the family farm and was very involved with community affairs. He served as the LeRoy Township supervisor and for 25 years was an Osceola County commissioner. Additionally, he served 26 years on the Lake Osceola Soil Conservation District and over 20 years as a member of the LeRoy Historical Society. He was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church in LeRoy until his passing in July 2014.
The George E. and Deanna J. House Endowment Fund for Kettunen Center was created in memory of George House by his wife, Deanna House, and their children, Sara and Paul, to recognize their family’s long-term involvement with 4-H as members, volunteers and donors.
“This fund honors George’s belief in 4-H and his long-term service on the board,” Deanna House said. “It was a good way to remember him long-term – it is also a good cause. “
4-H camps and centers like Kettunen Center are fading. They need to have support to keep them up-to-date,” she said.“This way, the funds from the endowment can be used as those in charge feel it’s needed well into the future.”
George and Deanna House both grew up as 4-H members in Illinois and Wisconsin. They went to college in Wisconsin, George at the University of Wisconsin and Deanna at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. After they married and moved to Michigan, they became highly valued Michigan 4-H volunteers, first in Kalamazoo County and then statewide.
George joined the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees in 1979 and served on the board until 2009. In his 30 years as a trustee, he served as president, vice president and treasurer of the board. He believed in the power of dedicated facilities to foster positive youth development. He helped lead the $4.3 million campaign to renovate Kettunen Center, and also helped generate support for the facilities campaign for 4-H Camp Kidwell in Allegan County.
Deanna is well known as a nutrition and healthy foods columnist, author, consultant, speaker and 4-H volunteer. She helped young people see the value in healthy eating and cooking, and helped them develop the skills to do so successfully. When microwave cooking was introduced as a fast way to prepare meals, Deanna helped young people navigate this new technology by co-authoring the 4-H curriculum Microwave Connections.
“4-H shaped my life,” Deanna House said. “We both felt that we should be paying back, and youth are one of the things we believe in. This was a great fit.”
The Houses have been generous annual donors to 4-H for over three decades. In 2006, they also established the Founder’s Fund, an operational endowment for the Michigan 4-H Foundation, which promises to pay dividends of support for 4-H for many years to come.
With a new grant from the Hal and Jean Glassen Memorial Foundation, the Michigan 4-H Shooting Sports Program was able to purchase a trailer to store and transport equipment.
“The Glassen Foundation support means our 4-H shooting sports program can continue to grow in number of volunteer leaders and equipment which translates to more youth involvement,” said Nick Baumgart, MSU Extension educator for environmental and outdoor education and shooting sports.
The Glassen Foundation’s focus is on environmental and outdoor education, shooting sports programs and enhancing wildlife, and animal welfare research.
“It’s one of our missions to support shooting sports education,” said Thomas Huggler, Glassen Foundation president. “It made sense for us to provide support for the trailer to export the program all over the state of Michigan.”
“Hal Glassen wanted us to make investments in shooting sports and youth education in shooting sports, hunting and conservation. By supporting 4-H, we are supporting two of the legs on this ‘stool,’” Huggler said.
Hal and Jean Glassen were avid hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife conservationists. They established the Glassen Foundation to continue their lifelong ambitions and goals. Hal, a University of Wisconsin graduate, was a partner in the Lansing law firm of Glassen, Rhead, McLean, Campbell and Schumacher and practiced law for 62 years prior to his death in 1992. Jean was the first woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin. With a degree in bacteriology, she pursued a career as a biologist with the Michigan Department of Public Health.
“My own kids are active in Eaton County 4-H, including shooting sports,” Huggler said. “I know firsthand the value of the 4-H shooting sports program – I’ve seen the value from my kids, and they’re really enthused.
“When you think about it, the investment you make in shooting sports is small – kids learn confidence, new skills, cooperation – this is what 4-H is all about. For the low cost, the return on the investment is multiplied – the future of conservation, hunting and fishing is all resting on the shoulders of our youth,” he added.
In addition, the Glassen Foundation has annually sponsored the 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteer and Instructor Training Workshop at Kettunen Center since 2010.
“The 4-H Shooting Sports Workshop trains the 4-H volunteers who teach the youth – it’s the gift that keeps on giving. The trainers spread the influence and provide opportunity for kids all over the state of Michigan,” Huggler said. “These shooting sports and outdoor education programs are so important. That’s why we get so excited about it!”
The 4-H Shooting Sports Workshop, held each April, is one of the largest 4-H workshops at Kettunen Center. At the workshop, 4-H participants learn about the Michigan 4-H shooting sports mission, policies, risk management, safety, discipline-specific equipment use and care. Participants also develop and improve skills in teaching shooting sports activities to youth; learn how to develop, expand and maintain local 4-H shooting sports programs; and refresh and renew their respect and concern for safety in the 4-H shooting sports program. Adults who successfully complete the workshop and all other requirements receive certification as Michigan 4-H shooting sports instructors for the discipline in which they participate.
“The Glassen Foundation’s annual support reduces the cost of the annual 4-H leader certification workshop at Kettunen Center. In addition, Glassen has generously allowed us to purchase much needed equipment to enhance our training abilities,” Baumgart said.
For half a century, a voluminous white pine tree graced the main entrance of Kettunen Center, the Michigan 4-H Foundation’s conference center near Tustin, Michigan. However, last year the tree, which existed long before the center was built, had to be removed because of safety concerns.
“As the tree grew, branches and limbs grew too large. It stretched and created cracks in the middle of the tree, which over time interferred with its integrity,” said Chris Gentry, Kettunen Center director.
Wood from the tree has been used in table centerpieces and for firewood, and it continues to be reused and recycled – one of the core missions of Kettunen Center.
Roy Davis has been coming to Kettunen Center since 1989, first as a high school student and for the past 14 years as the St. Johns band director.
“I was sad to see something that had been there longer than me. I had gone by it over a hundred times and I didn’t miss it until it was gone.”
Davis collected fallen needles and pine cones from the tree and hopes to produce a seedling that could potentially be planted at Kettunen Center in the future. He also presented Kettunen Center director Chris Gentry with a framed photo of the tree.
“I didn’t know if they had a photo of the tree,” Davis said. “I wanted to make sure, so I took a picture – freezing the moment in time, essentially keeping the memory alive.”
Ultimately, Davis felt the tree represented something more.
“I think about all the people who passed that tree, people who enjoyed its shade,” Davis said. “That tree had seen things you will never know. It had a legacy.
“Trees are very symbolic to me,” Davis said. “I try to plant a tree on my own property each year. We’ve had a few students of band pass away, and we’ve planted trees in their memory. The most helpful thing you can do is plant a tree and provide shade for others.
“I feel like trees are subjected to so much – they’re like kids – they’re subjected to their environment, and their environment affects their growth.”
The St. Johns band has held its summer band camp at Kettunen Center for the past 40 years, making the group one of the longest term users of the facility.
“The band has always gone to Kettunen Center, so we continue to go there – we would never change,” Davis said. “There are great trails, a commitment to progress – they are updating all the time. Plus, I think they have the same commitment to the environment as I do.
“The number one reason we return is the people – Kettunen Center has an outstanding staff,” he said. “It also has the opportunity for us to be the only band on campus, and they have all the accommodations with everything we need.”
“Some kids may not get the opportunity to travel,” he said. “Band camp helps develop skills for kids to learn to live with others for a week. It’s a precursor for those who may go on to college. It’s almost like dorm life.
“I also have an emotional tie – I love band. The connection at Kettunen Center brings me back to my youth when life was simpler. It’s just a really good place.”
Kettunen Center opened in 1961 and is a full-service conference center owned and operated by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Although the center is the primary site for Michigan 4-H youth, volunteer and professional development training, other organizations such as church groups, band camps and other youth-serving organizations have become regular Kettunen Center guests.
From Vantage, Fall 2015
Kettunen Center received new endowment investments this year with the launch of the Kettunen Center Caretakers Society to grow the Kettunen Center Endowment Fund.
Founding Kettunen Center Caretakers Society membership gifts were received from the estate of George and Victoria Rock, Rodney and Mary Bellows, and jointly from Ingrid Thacker and her nephew, Brian Thacker, in memory of her husband, Francis, and his father, Tom Thacker. Members receive a special silver leaf on the Kettunen Center Giving Tree.
George and Vicki Rock, of Cadillac, were long-time supporters and friends of 4-H and Kettunen Center. In 2006, they established the John F. and Andrea E. Grix Endowment for Kettunen Center to provide annual support for Kettunen Center operations and educational programs and to honor and recognize John and Andrea Grix, Kettunen Center director and educational program coordinator, respectively. Vicki passed away in December 2013, and George passed just two months later, in February 2014. They remembered Kettunen Center with an estate gift, a gift that will leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
Victoria worked 21 years for the Midland school system and helped raise their three children. George, an Osceola County 4-H alumnus and Michigan State University graduate, worked 40 years for Dow Chemical Co., serving his last 15 years as business executive. After retiring, he became a venture capitalist partnering with MSU in technology. He was a member of the Rotary Clubs of both Midland and Cadillac for 30 years. Additionally, he was a founding contributor to the Mercy Hospital Endowment Fund and a co-founder of the Cadillac Area Land Conservancy, and he helped create the Cadillac Area Community Foundation Endowment.
Rodney and Mary Bellows chose to honor their 4-H involvement through a gift to the Kettunen Center Caretaker’s Society. Mary and her sister were 4-H members and received 4-H scholarships allowing them to attend Michigan State University. Upon graduation, Mary pursued a career in both MSU Extension 4-H and teaching, and her sister had a career in teaching. Rodney is a retired optometrist who had a practice in Cadillac, where he and Mary raised their two children and now are proud grandparents. He served as a 4-H volunteer in Wexford County, with special interest in geocaching.
Ingrid Thacker, of LeRoy, wished to honor her late husband, Francis Thomas, and his 4-H involvement with a special gift. Brian Thacker chose to also honor his father, Thomas Thacker, though this joint gift to Kettunen Center. The brothers, Francis and Thomas, grew up in 4-H together and took great pride in their 4-H achievements. Francis went on to manage the family farm and was very involved with community affairs. He served as the LeRoy Township supervisor and 25 years as an Osceola County commissioner. Additionally, he served 26 years on the Lake Osceola Soil Conservation District and over 20 years as a member of the LeRoy Historical Society. He was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church in LeRoy until his passing in July 2014.
Thomas Thacker graduated from MSU and taught high school agriculture for two years at East Jordan, Michigan, where he remained active in 4-H until he was called to active duty in the Army Air Force. Following his service in WWII, Col. Thacker held various assignments worldwide, including the first professor of air science at the Michigan College of Mining and Technology, Houghton, Michigan, and logistics jobs at the Pentagon, among others. He retired from active duty in 1968 and became a real estate broker in Fairborn, Ohio, until 2000. He was president and founding member of Dawson Realty Inc., and served on the Greene County Board of Realtors. He was an adult leader and supporter of the Boy Scout program for over 60 years and a proud volunteer at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for many years until his death in September 2012.
Growing the endowment for Kettunen Center is a priority of the Campaign for Michigan 4-H’s Future. As of Oct. 31, 2015, $70,110 has been raised — 14 percent of the $500,000 Kettunen Center Endowment goal.
Kettunen Center, Michigan’s 4-H leadership training facility near Tustin, Michigan, has offered Environmental and Outdoor Education (EOE) programs since 1988 to help youth, adults and families develop an appreciation of and responsible commitment to the world around them.
Now, with support from the Osceola County Community Foundation and the General Mills Foundation/Yoplait of Reed City, Kettunen Center is able to place a higher emphasis on both STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and healthy lifestyles education within its EOE program.
As a result of these grants, Kettunen Center offered two new Winter Days at Kett, day-long events for local families – Messy Science Day and Crafty Kids Day.
Messy Science Day was designed for families with pre-K to second-grade children. A variety of age-appropriate STEM activities were offered, including making slime, catapults and chemistry experiments. Kids learned about the differences between liquids and solids using everyday items.
“It really gives kids a chance to explore some of the basic science principles,” said Laura Jacobson-Pentces, Kettunen Center educational program coordinator. “We’re giving them the chance to experiment, make observations and understand those principles.
“Kids love these activities because they are fun and messy – they like to touch, feel and see things happen. It’s a nice combination for us to have STEM education where kids can learn and get messy.”
In addition, Kettunen Center will host students from Reed City, Pine River and Marion schools for the EOE program.
“Schools in our area continue to face budgetary challenges, and often field trips are not supported unless they are at reduced to no cost. Research has shown that educational field trips, particularly those that involve experiential learning, have extensions that last long after the field trip has concluded. Having students off-site and out of the boundaries of the classroom allows learning to occur outside of the daily framework,” Jacobson-Pentces said.
Fitness as a lifestyle is attainable by all, and according to research, children are more likely to be physically active if their parents/adults are active with them and they are doing activities that they enjoy.
“Our EOE program provides gateway experiences for youth, allowing them to explore and pursue physical activity beyond the realm of merely ‘exercise.’ The scope of our EOE program is to model activities for families and adults while encouraging the pursuit of wellness through these activities and showcasing healthy choices for snacking and meals,” she said.
According to a STEM report by the U.S. Department of Education, in a world that is becoming increasingly complex, where success is driven not only by what you know but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information.
“This support allows local students to have field-trip experiences that introduce, enhance and support these educational mandates, as well as provide extensions and continued learning beyond the field trip experience,” Jacobson-Pentces said.
For nearly 60 years, Michigan 4-H’ers and volunteers have explored their inner creativity and learned new talents at 4-H’s skill-building workshops at Kettunen Center.
The Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration Workshop (which is a combination of the former 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop and the 4-H Clothing and Textiles Workshop), took place at Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan, Oct. 19-20, 2019 for its 29th year.
Even though the name is creative arts, 4-H Youth Development educator Janis Brinn says “This workshop is so much more than doing arts and crafts; it is gaining life skills.”
Many sessions were offered at the workshop including 4-H performing arts, 4-H visual arts, and sewing and textiles. Participants learned new things, made new friends and put all their creativity to work and had a fabulous time. The workshop goal was for all the participants to gain valuable resources and skills and share them with their home counties.
Over 100 participants attended the workshop, including youth ages 12 to 19, volunteers and a guest 4-H staff member from Taiwan.
The collected evaluations showed that the workshop was a success. A few positive comments included:
“I look forward to this every year. I gain so much knowledge and new craft ideas to take to my club.”
“I loved all my sessions, instructors were amazing, and I learned so much. I can’t wait to share with my county.”
“Learned a variety of crafts that can be taught to different age groups.”
Each year a silent auction and fabric sale is held at the workshop to raise funds for following year’s workshop and the 4-H State Awards.
The 4-H China Art artwork, featured in the MSU Extension article, “Michigan 4-H receives special gift of artwork from China,” that was proudly displayed at the 2017 workshop was brought back for all to see.
The Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration Workshop was successful in growing creativity, life skills, friendships, fun and more.
MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.
Two shooting sports ranges opened at Kettunen Center in late August, thanks to a generous gift from Thomas H. Cobb, former Michigan 4-H Foundation trustee.
“I have been involved in the shooting sports in one way or another since my preteen years,” Cobb said. “I have fond memories of trying for years to outscore my father in skeet. But I never did! Living vicariously through talented young shooters is a real joy for me now. More and more colleges and universities have shooting sports programs and some offer scholarship programs for exceptional shooters. Who knows, a future Olympian may begin his or her career at Kettunen Center some day!”
Kettunen Center’s new archery and firearms ranges will offer a safe space for members of 4-H and other groups to learn and practice shooting sports skills.
“Having been a supporter of 4-H shooting sports programs for many years, I think Kettunen Center is the logical place for permanent ranges,” Cobb said. “These ranges seem to fit well in the original concept of Kettunen Center and will hopefully give a boost to the
whole program. More and more civic and corporate groups are looking to the shooting sports for retreat and teambuilding programs. In addition, it is the ideal place to train shooting instructors from all around the state.”
Each year, Kettunen Center hosts on average 150 participants at the 4-H volunteer and youth shooting sports training workshop. Additionally, the center often serves as a training site for public service agencies. Access to safe shooting sports facilities will complement these and other trainings held at Kettunen Center.
“My hope is that training youth in shooting sports will lead to an interest in hunting and other outdoor pursuits. Spending time pursuing small game or deer on a beautiful autumn afternoon in Michigan is something everyone should experience,” Cobb said.
Cobb served as a Michigan 4-H Foundation trustee from 1998 to 2009 and as president from 2004 to 2006. He established the Thomas H. Cobb Shooting Sports Fund in 1999 to support 4-H shooting sports initiatives and certification programs for 4-H volunteers across the state. Cobb has been active as a consultant and adviser to a variety of non-profit organizations, including the Michigan Nature Conservancy, Crystal Lake Watershed Fund, and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America-Michigan chapter.
After nearly 60 years of welcoming the Michigan 4-H community for place-based experiential learning, Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich. will close permanently on July 1, 2020.
The Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees, owner and operator of Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich., has been exploring alternatives for use of the facility over the past few years and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the board’s decision-making process.
On May 28, the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees made the heart-breaking decision to permanently close and sell Kettunen Center. All groups who have scheduled events or activities at Kettunen Center have received or will receive full refunds for payments and deposits made.
“Please know that this decision was not taken lightly,” said Sara Stuby, Michigan 4-H Foundation president. “Many of us have been attendees at the Kettunen Center for many years and we adore the facility and the memories made there. This fondness made it a very difficult decision for the board, however decisions cannot be made on emotions. Ultimately the Michigan 4-H Foundation board agreed selling the facility is in the best interest of the entire organization.”
Kettunen Center opened in 1961 as the first 4-H volunteer and youth training center in the nation and has impacted the lives of thousands of 4-H families across the state. The facility hosts about 10,000 guests each year, including about 800 4-H participants. However, 4-H programming has evolved and changed reducing the need for Michigan 4-H Foundation ownership of Kettunen Center.
“The Michigan 4-H Foundation remains committed to supporting Michigan 4-H Youth Development as they meet the needs of youth and volunteers in new and innovative ways across the state,” Stuby continued.
“On behalf of the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees and Kettunen Center staff members, I would like to thank the many groups who have continued to gather, learn and grow at Kettunen Center for nearly six decades. We especially thank 4-H volunteers, staff, donors and stakeholders for your long-time support and dedication to Kettunen Center,” Stuby said.
About the Michigan 4-H Foundation
The Michigan 4-H Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fundraising organization based in East Lansing, Mich. Led by a board of trustees, the foundation solicits, manages, grants and stewards support from private individuals, organizations, foundations and corporations to support Michigan 4-H youth development programs.
As many may recall, in May 2020 the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees made the difficult decision to permanently close and sell Kettunen Center, the 4-H volunteer and youth conference center in Tustin, Mich., owned and operated by the Michigan 4-H Foundation.
Over the past year, the Kettunen Center Memorabilia Committee has been hard at work. Historical 4-H and Kettunen Center items of significance will be donated to either MSU Archives or the MSU Museum, depending on which items each location will accept. These historical items have all been cataloged, boxed and are ready for delivery as soon as campus allows.
The sponsored bricks from Kettunen Center have been relocated to the Schoolyard Demonstration Garden at the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens. Additionally, the Reach for the Stars metal art honoring Don Jost, executive director emeritus, has also been placed in the Schoolyard Demonstration Garden. The 4-H Emerald Clover Society recognition formerly on display at Kettunen Center is in process to be redesigned to fit the 4-H Children’s Gardens theme.
There are over 100 items from Kettunen Center to be placed for auction which range from paintings, to prints, to books. The auction will likely be an online auction due to the ongoing pandemic. The Michigan 4-H Foundation will send out more information to constituents once auction details are confirmed.
In May 2021, the Michigan 4-H Foundation entered into a lease agreement with an intent to purchase with a religious youth
organization to run their youth camp at Kettunen Center this past summer. While the sale is not finalized at this time, the board is
anticipating a sale closing in early 2022.
After the completion of the sale, the board plans to allocate the net proceeds (after sale expenses and debt repayment) to support Michigan 4-H. The board will continue share information when possible. We know and understand that Kettunen Center continues to be near and dear to the hearts of many within our Michigan 4-H family.