Each month we highlight an Ohio 4-H alumnus with amazing stories to share—from their personal experience in 4-H to how they have given back to the program. This month we are featuring Norma Pitts, an alumna of Madison County 4-H who worked as the state clothing specialist for OSU Extension for 25 years.
Throughout her 10 years in 4-H, Pitts took clothing and sewing projects where she learned new skills in sewing construction, garment fit, and design. “I usually received blue ribbons,” Pitts recalled, “and was selected to compete at the Ohio State Fair twice. The first time was to exhibit my sportswear outfit and the second was a tailoring project for Fashion Revue. I didn’t win an Outstanding of the Day, but later entered my tailoring project in the Make It With Wool contest and placed third in the state.”
She also participated in several group projects that were offered at the time, including “Outdoor Cookery” and “Let’s Entertain.” “We planned a mother’s tea, learned how to set a table, and made special treats like a five-layer ribbon sandwich for the ‘Let’s Entertain’ project. At the end of the year, we even had the opportunity to dress up and go into the city for dinner at The Maramor, a very upscale restaurant in Columbus at the time.”
4-H also helped Pitts strengthen her leadership and communication skills and instilled a passion for community service. “I participated in junior and senior camps, served as a camp counselor, was on the Junior Fair Board, and took on leadership roles within my club.” Attending State Conservation Camp was a particular highlight for Pitts. “My dad was involved in soil and water conservation when I was young, and Conservation Camp only enhanced my interest. I also had the honor of meeting Bea Cleveland at camp, who was serving as a counselor and instructor and spent a lot of time helping youth with crafts and activities.”
After aging out of the program, 4-H continued to open doors for Pitts. “I received a Kroger scholarship that made it possible for me to attend The Ohio State University, where I majored in home economics education.” The skills she learned through her 4-H projects also helped her get a job at JCPenney and helped pay for college. “I listed sewing and garment construction as skills on my application and was offered a job providing alteration services. At first, I was terrified I would mess up and cut a garment at the wrong line, but I never had any returns.”
After graduation, Pitts taught in the South-Western City School District for seven years and, during four of those years, spent summers in school to earn her master’s degree in textiles and clothing. After obtaining her master’s, Pitts applied for a position with OSU Cooperative Extension and worked as the clothing specialist for 25 years. “In this role I contributed to the Ohio 4-H clothing program by writing and revising 4-H clothing project books, leading trainings for advisors and judges, and helping conduct the State 4-H Fashion revues and evaluations at the Ohio State Fair.”
“I helped with practice and commentary at the revue for over 40 years—first in my professional role, then as a volunteer. It was always enjoyable to see the 4-H members’ hard work, especially during the first year of a new project.”
In addition to her work with the state clothing program, Pitts advised a local community club for 13 years, served on the 4-H Camp Ohio Board, and volunteered as a member of the Ohio 4-H Foundation Board for nine years. During her time on the board, she assisted with the Celebration of Youth auction, served on the grants committee, and worked tirelessly to make the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center a reality. Pitts continues to give back to Ohio 4-H today through her generous support of the Celebration of Youth and sponsorship of clock trophies at the Ohio State Fair. In recognition for her commitment to supporting the youth of Ohio 4-H, Pitts was inducted into the Ohio 4-H Volunteer Hall of Fame in 2010.