After the final campfire


After the final campfire, Michigan 4-H youth make a difference in their communities and even turn their new found passion for natural resources into a career - that’s why Bob Patterson volunteers every year at 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp.

August 5, 2019


After the final bonfire transcript

Jeff Dwyer: What is your idea of the perfect summer camp? Does it include swimming and songs around the campfire? Fishing, kayaking and learning about cool things that you didn't even know existed? Maybe making new friends.

I'm Jeff Dwyer director of Michigan State University Extension and you're listening to Partnerships and Peninsulas.

I'm in Northeast Michigan, near the shores of Lake Huron for the Great Lakes 4-H Natural Resources Camp. This award-winning camp teaches young people about Michigan's diverse natural resources, environmental science, the Great Lakes ecosystems and management issues, and related career exploration; and it's a whole lot of fun too. My guest today is long time 4-H volunteer and camp co-director Bob Patterson. Bob is from Big Rapids and through his volunteer work he has helped influence hundreds of young people in their appreciation and awareness of The Great Outdoors. Bob welcome to Partnerships and Peninsulas.

Bob Patterson: Thank you, very glad to be here.

Dwyer: Tell us a little bit about how you became first involved and how long that's been in the various roles you played over that time.

Patterson: It will be my pleasure. It's been a long and fun experience. I started out filling in for the camp cook one year when the camp was located on Beaver Island. I don't know how to say, “No,” so I've been coming back every year since and serving as the camp cook and different assistance and I've been doing the co-director position for quite a few years now. About 33 years I've been involved. My main responsibility is to work and mentor with our camp counselors and work on the logistics side of camping. It's been a great experience.

Dwyer: That’s a long time, and to be devoted to something like this for that long of a period time, for anyone, that's impressive, and let me just say that we’re deeply appreciative. This is one of those things you devoted so much effort to and so much of yourself to over the years. What really caught your attention and what has really driven you to spend the time that you have over these many years?

Patterson: The opportunity to see all these young campers come and experience all the great things about the Great Lakes, learn about their impact and how they can make a difference and make change back in their community is what keeps me coming back every year.

Dwyer: I've had the chance over the last couple of days to talk to a number of the campers but also the counselors, and then I learned a really cool thing which I did not know before I came here that many of our MSU Extension staff or perhaps people who work for partner organizations and are here got their interest in natural resources from being at this camp when they were youth. And I suspect you knew some of them way back then.

Patterson: There's been a long-standing history, I think, of people finding out they really do have a love of natural resources and continuing on their education and then their work careers. There are several, I've been trying to think about that over the last few days, about some of the the names. I'm sure there's more than I realized but it's neat to see some of them come back and be on staff and know that they’re working for Extension.

Dwyer: That's an amazing legacy. I think that we don't often think about. I mean and Extension, as you know, with 4-H this year, we have 219,000 youth experiencing 4-H. Sometimes we think about while that's great that the kids are having this experience at this time, it's easy then to forget that this may be influencing a career choice or maybe influencing the direction that their life takes.

I had the chance in another podcast to speak to Liz Seifert. As you know, Liz is about to graduate from Eastern Michigan University. As an elementary ed teacher with integrated science as her principal focus, she credits this camp and the experience she had with you and others as really being the driving force behind those choices.

Patterson: It’s great and it’s humbling every time you hear about these stories. Kids come in and it might be their first experience being in an out of door experience, and then to find out that they’ve made a career choice - it's really exciting.

Dwyer: I suspect over 30 plus years you have many many wonderful memories from this camp - if you had to pick one or two, what would those be?

Patterson: There are so many! I think it’s interesting, especially year, we had a group of campers that they just weren't gelling and getting the team atmosphere that we try to create at camp. Until it was a little bit too late: about Thursday, all the sudden they just gelled and it was great the last few days. At our final campfire, they just wouldn't leave. They realize what they had missed the few days before that and they didn't want to be over. So it made you realize that you really are having an impact.

Dwyer: I've only had a chance to be here for the last couple of days, but it is a packed program here at the camp. I think Brandon and I were talking about typically in a given day they might have 30 or 45 minutes of truly free time, but the rest of the time they're doing amazing things. They’re scuba diving or they’re sailing, or as I did today, they're having sea lamprey attached to their foreheads. Well they aren’t but I did, but they're getting to hold sea lamprey.

And then there are other things too. I've been very impressed with the intentional focus on leadership development and group formation. Monday night, your second night I think, at the campfire, it's very clear that this is a group that's already starting to gel and starting to feel like a group and enjoy each other. That's a very cool thing to watch.

Bob, I wanted to also acknowledge that you support many things probably many that I know nothing about, but I'm aware of the many things you support that are related to 4-H and MSU Extension and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. And we're just very grateful for the work that you put in working with us. What we do couldn't be done without you and people like you. I just wanted to mention in addition to the Great Lakes 4-H Natural Resources Camp, for many years you were a trustee on the Michigan 4-H Foundation Board, you've been a Mecosta County 4-H volunteer, a volunteer at the Kettunen center. In 2012, we had the opportunity to acknowledge you with a 4-H Citation Award and I'm sure there are things since I'm still relatively new to Extension that I don't know anything about. But we're very grateful for all that you've contributed and I'm sure we haven't said that enough to you.

So tell me, you are a florist, I believe? Is that the case?

Patterson: Yeah.

Dwyer: And so you have a big job running floral shops and yet you take, I suspect, probably most of two weeks to prepare and be here every summerBut many other hours over the course of the year doing the prep work that leads into it. And so I’m sure that your family and those around you know that when it comes to early August they won't see you quite so much.

Patterson: That is very true, it is. It is really a year round commitment. We start planning as soon as camp’s over for next year and try to get things going. It's all worth it in the end when you see the kids on Saturday and their jazzed and excited about the opportunity. They can go out and it make a difference.

Dwyer: That’s really great! I'm Jeff Dwyer and I have the privilege of being the director of Michigan State University Extension. I've had the pleasure of talking with Bob Patterson today about the Great Lakes 4-H Natural Resources Camp and his role as a long time 4-H volunteer and camp co-director. Bob thank you very much for spending time with us today.

Patterson: Thank you, it was my pleasure! We were really glad to have you here at camp!

Dwyer: Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed it! It's been a great experience.