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WVU Extension service project on display at U.S. Capitol for holiday season

Ethan Reese is shown in a green shirt and long dark sleeves on the left of the frame holding his winning essay. His mom, in a gray sweatshirt with green trees, holds a microphone in front of a banner for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Ethan Reese, a WVU Extension 4-H member from Randolph County, will help light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Tuesday (Nov. 28) in Washington. Here, Reese reads his winning entry for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest alongside his mother, Amanda, during an event in West Virginia. (WVU Photo)

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West Virginia University will be represented in Washington this holiday season beginning Tuesday (Nov. 28) with the official lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, an evergreen with many connections to the Mountain State through WVU Extension.

For WVU Extension, the holidays started in the spring.

When it was announced the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree would hail from the Monongahela National Forest, the USDA Forest Service reached out to WVU Extension to enlist the helping hands of 4-H members and other Extension volunteers. The tree, along with more than 65 companion trees, would need ornaments — approximately 14,000 of them. WVU Extension, with offices in all 55 counties, had the people and expertise to help with this effort.

Working with the Forest Service, WVU Extension 4-H created a service project which would be carried out at state and county camps, giving young people and volunteers opportunities to use their creativity and love of the state for the displays in Washington on the West Lawn and at Capitol buildings.

“This service project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our youth to be part of something special,” Luci Mosesso, WVU 4-H Extension agent in Pocahontas County, said. “To see them drawing their favorite West Virginia scenes, showcasing their 4-H pride and creating beautiful artwork that will be on display for hundreds of thousands of visitors was so inspiring.”

In all, 4-H members made nearly 5,400 ornaments at camps and other events, contributing 2,500 service hours to the project.

“We also had members of our Community Educational Outreach Service clubs around the state and other volunteers who contributed beautiful ornaments. We were able to send nearly 6,000 ornaments to the Capitol and represent the state of West Virginia. We are so proud to have been a part of this project,” Mosesso said.

In October, Ethan Reese, a 4-H member from Randolph County, was chosen as the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest winner. Reese’s essay was selected from more than 400 submissions.

In his essay, Reese wrote “I spend a lot of time there (Monongahela National Forest) with my family, and I am the great-great grandson of one of the very first superintendents of the Monongahela National Forest. The biggest reason I love West Virginia forests and public lands is because they allow me to spend time with my family. I take photographs with my dad, hike with my mom, fish with my grandpa, identify wildflowers with my grandparents, travel and explore with my parents, and camp with all of my family.”

The Beverly Elementary fourth grade student will take part in the official tree-lighting ceremony alongside members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the public at 5 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 28) on the West Lawn. Scheduled to join him are nearly 200 West Virginia 4-Hers from Pocahontas and Randolph counties, as well as other parts of the state.

Many WVU Extension 4-H groups, faculty, staff and other volunteers provided support for special events around the state, including educational activities and exhibits, as the tree made its way to Washington.

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