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Page 14 of Mountain Life & Work vol. 01 no. 1 April, 1925

Part of Mountain Life and Work

Page 14 Southern Mountain Life and Work April, 1925 County Achievement Contest in Kentucky By Marshall E. Vaughn (This article except the judges' report, appeared in February number of "Rural America.") On the first day of August, 1922, an improve- ment contest on a county wide scale was launched in Eastern Kentucky by the Exten- sion Department of Berea College. I have been superintendent of that service for ten years and have always been ready to employ any worthwhile method that would fit in with our program and be practical for our field. As the outgrowth of a number of suggestions and experiments, the County Achievement Contest was developed. The idea was to put on an ideal experiment and use the most effective means possible to get results. Contests in community clubs, Sunday school classes, and various city projects have been tried with success. And basing our hope on these successes we decided to launch a gigantic contest and put behind it every agency and organization that could be converted to our plan. We worked out these ideas on paper before giving them any concrete form. The first question that came to our minds was: what is a well organized and well balanced county? The answer to this question was the development of ten departments which were to be federated under one general organization known as the county council. The ten departments are as follows: The public school system, health and sanitation, home and farm improvements, churches and Sunday schools, agriculture and live stock, community clubs, junior clubs, roads and public buildings, newspaper circulation, and social work. There is nothing convention- al or arbitrary in the naming of these particular ten departments. It is not really essential to have as many as ten and I would not have more than ten if I were to start another organiza- tion. There should not be fewer than seven departments nor more than ten. It depends on how you group them and outline the work in order that it will cover every phase of country life. When our ideal county had been built on paper, we sought a benefactor who had both money and vision. I made a trip to Louisville to see Judge R. W. Bingham, owner and editor of the Courier-Journal and Times, and one of the outstanding promoters of cooperative so- cieties among farmers. After listening atten- tively to the details of the program, Judge Bingham agreed to give five thousand dollars to be awarded in two prizes, three thousand and two thousand dollars, to the two counties showing the greatest improvement over a per- iod of two years. He left the details of the plan entirely with us because he had enough faith in the sincerity of Berea College's work to leave all of the details of such a program with the college. With our program on paper and the promise of the awards secured, we had to put over the real job, and there is where the rub comes, always. Judge Bingham being owner of a me- tropolitan paper, the news of the ,enterprise was given wide circulation on the front page of his morning Courier. The agricultural agents, who are the real leaders in most of the Eastern Kentucky counties, began to write for information and within a month ten counties had signified their desire to enter the contest. Before we enrolled the counties we got the written agreement of all the public officials and the principal service organizations of the coun- ty to cooperate with the enterprise. Then a meeting was held to elect the county chairman and secretary. A list of the ten departments and an outline of their duties were given to the county chairman in order that a chairman and committee for each department might be care- fully chosen. When this was done mass meet- ings were held in the courthouse and other central points throughout the county for the purpose of arousing the interest of the people. Publicity was given through local papers, and placards and posters were sent to all parts of the county. An ,effort was made to arouse the interest and enthusiasm of every citizen. In some counties the work started off with a bang, while in others, more conservative, it went more slowly. A beautiful sequel to this move- ment was the noticeable fact that some of the slowest counties in the beginning were the most enthusiastic at the close. Shortly after the inauguration of the move- ment a county wide road working was called in Knott county and three thousand citizens gave two full days' work on the roads of the county. On some far distant creeks of Knott, roads were put in passable condition that had not been worked in twelve years. It these days of centralization of authority and power in state and national governments the people

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