The 2008 4-H State Congress saw the completion of a landmark year for a volunteer-led service organization that has contributed to the positive development of Virginia’s youth since the Jazz Age.

Although the Virginia chapter of the 4-H All Stars marked the end of 85 years of service during its annual tapping ceremony on Wednesday, June 25, the event signaled the beginning of a lifetime of service for new members inducted into the society. Among this year’s 68 initiates were Mark McCann, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Celia Hayhoe, Extension family resource management specialist.

In 1922, a delegation of three West Virginia 4-H All Stars inducted a dozen Virginia 4-H members, thereby launching the Virginia chapter of the 4-H All Stars. The following year, these charter members admitted 23 more members into the society at the first tapping ceremony organized entirely by Virginia 4-H.

Expansion was a major goal of the organization in its early years. Inspired by their West Virginia "forefathers," the Virginia chapter helped bring the All Star model to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. By 1933, two-dozen Virginia counties had All Star chapters. The 4-H All Stars overcame many obstacles in the 1930s, including a polio epidemic and the Great Depression, and by 1938, they had adopted the motto of "service" with the expectation that all members would apply this motto to their lives.

During World War II, many 4-H All Stars were in the armed forces, and military activities on Virginia Tech’s campus forced the Virginia chapter to find alternative locations for their summer conferences. In 1955, the Cities Service Oil Company sustained the 4-H All Stars by sponsoring the Key Award pins, certificates, district banquets, and by 1960, a state banquet honoring new members. This partnership, which lasted until 1972, brought renewed interest in the organization.

In the 1960s, the 4-H All Stars added a public speaking contest and a midwinter conference to their annual schedule, and by the end of the decade, the organization extended membership to include volunteer leaders along with the usual line-up of 4-H’ers and Extension agents. The 1970s saw the creation of a bi-annual newsletter, "The Star," as well as the Bradshaw Award to honor members with fewer than 15 years of service. This complemented the Hall of Fame Award for more experienced members.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, the 4-H All Stars encouraged the development of local, unit-level chapters through the creation of the Outstanding Unit Chapter Award, later named the Charter Chapter Award. In 1991, the organization also established the Keffer Scholarship, which in 2006 became an endowed scholarship offering two $600 awards each year. The 4-H All Stars also provide the C. Dean Allen Award for an Extension employee who excels in international work and a scholarship for a Virginia 4-H’er to attend the National 4-H Congress.

Today, the Virginia chapter of the 4-H All Stars has more than 9,000 names on its roster, including those of more than 600 honorary members.

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