Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Don't Let ROI Mean Removal of Innovation

Heavy Focus on Measurement Can Lead to Meaningless Talk, Bad Work

Ahmad IslamAhmad Islam
Disclaimer: No ROI was injured or otherwise adversely affected during the creation of or as a result of this piece. In fact, at commonground, we are champions of ROI; daily striving to understand, measure and attain ever higher returns. 

Now ... let's just cut straight to our Carrie Bradshaw moment here. When did ROI stop meaning Return on Investment and start representing Removal Of Innovation? Or Imagination even? 

Far too often ROI is simply thrown around as jargon to imply "We're smart" or "We get results" or to parrot a client. 

We're the generation that has seen ROI concepts strengthened. But we're also the ones who have fueled the quantum jump in which ROI often disappears as an applied metric and reappears as a generalized way to say things as simple as "How much money will we make off that?" (which admittedly doesn't sound as smart). 

Sure, it's a natural linguistic evolution -- theory to practice to slang. But in this case ROI slang has consequences when an agency not only takes up that casual talk of "delivering ROI" but also struggles to map its work to ROI instead of delivering big ideas that build brands AND deliver results. 

The fact that ROI clearly works often can prove to be a setup for meaningless talk and misapplication. 

ROI, while an extremely helpful concept, can prove unhealthy to creative thinking and big ideas if misconstrued as the "be all end all" of your marketing efforts. Ultimately we must deliver results, but the road most traveled is not the only means of accomplishing that objective. 

In an era when the emergence of a compelling new (supposedly measurable) medium is a common, seemingly weekly occurrence, this temptation to sacrifice creativity for measurability is understandable. But as agencies we are paid to deliver innovation, strategy and creativity and to bring those to life in ways that make robust connections between people, ideas and brands. Without that stuff, there's not much ROI to measure. 

The "big-idea grave yard" that exists on every agency's shared hard drive grows larger and larger as clients and agencies run from ideas that truly stretch the imagination in favor of landing safely on the ideas that are the easiest to measure. 

So, the next time you find yourself deep in ROI jargon, do two things. First, dispatch the slang with a real question about what exactly you're trying to discover or measure. Secondly, GET BACK TO THE BIG IDEA. In this case, you can have the best of both worlds. 

Friday, April 25, 2008

Route 104 Bridge Making Progress - Update April 25th

OSWEGO, New York (April 25, 2008) - Demolition of the Route 104 Bridge in Oswego continues as the large sections are being removed and transported out.  As you can see in this picture the entire south end concrete of the bridge has been removed. A lot of jack hammers, saws, trucks, and manpower to do it right. Pretty amazing process to say the least. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Multi-Organ Blood Analysis Planned May 17 At Pulaski Health Center

PULASKI, New York (April 23, 2008) - Pulaski Health Center will hold its annual Multi-Organ Blood Analysis on May 17 at its 61 Delano St. location, according to Daniel Dey, executive director of Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc., operator of the Pulaski-based healthcare facility.

Openings are available from 6:30 - 9:30 a.m., and appointments are being accepted by contacting 1-800-225-6032.

“These extensive multi-organ blood tests would normally cost more than $200,” said Dey. “The Pulaski Health Center has partnered with Oswego Health to provide all of these tests for just $30.”

The tests can serve as early warning signs for heart, liver, and kidney disease as well as diabetes, and other health problems.

A PSA test can be done for an additional $20.

This is a special test that can help detect prostate cancer.

Pulaski Health Center Medical Director Patrick Carguello said, “We’re pleased to partner once again with Oswego Health to provide the greater Pulaski community with these important health-related tests. The response has been very favorable in the past for this blood draw and we anticipate that this year’s event will also be well represented by the community.”

According to Carguello all test results will be sent directly to the participants’ home and physician in an easy to read format.

“Pulaski Health Center is proud to be able to provide our community with quality healthcare,” said Dey. “Events like this annual blood analysis are representative of that commitment and dedication.”

There are a limited number of time slots available.

To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-225-6032.

Located at 61 Delano St., the Pulaski Health Center is a family-oriented health care practice that provides northern Oswego County and southern Jefferson County residents with a variety of comprehensive health care and related services.

Incorporated in 1969 as Northern Oswego County Health Services Inc., the facility operates as Pulaski Health Center and is governed by a volunteer board of directors from area communities.

School based health centers are offered through Pulaski Health Center and provide primary health care to program enrolled students in grades Pre-K through 12 at the Pulaski, Sandy Creek and APW school districts.

For additional information on the services provided through Pulaski Health Center, call (315) 298-6564.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Newest Addition to Step One Creative - Baby Step!

Welcome Jameson Charles Stepien, 7 lb. 19 1/2" son... born today (4/17/08) at 9:17 a.m. to Shane and Christy Stepien.
Mommy and baby are doing great... and brother/sister.. Spencer and Addison.. and dad are very proud to say the least.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Route 104 Oswego Bridge Construction - Update 4.16.08

OSWEGO, New York - The cranes arrived overnight and the Route 104 Bridge Project at Oswego (now 16 days old) is in a new phase of removing sections of the existing bridge. The large cranes are being used to lift sections of concrete and then eventually the bridge structure onto flatbeds or similar trucks for removal. 

It should be very interesting to see how this is dismantled piece by piece. We'll give updates as we see it progress.

Route 104 Oswego Bridge Construction - Update 4.15.08

OSWEGO, New York - Here is a picture from yesterday (4.15.08)  before the arrived to start removing the various sections of the bridge structure on Route 104 in Oswego.

Notice the green side rails have been removed overlooking each side of the bridge.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Marketing McCain(TM)
Campaign Plays Up a Political Brand That Stands for Independence From GOP

Courtesy of Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers

Republican Sen. John McCain is a champion of an unpopular war, he is trying to succeed an unpopular GOP president, and he is a member of an increasingly unpopular party in a year when the historic race of his rivals has caused hundreds of thousands of voters to register as Democrats.

Yet McCain has been steadily gaining in national polls against Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and he holds a lead in many of the swing states that are likely to determine who wins the presidency.

McCain's advisers attribute this seeming contradiction to what they believe is McCain™, a political brand that for over a decade has stood for strength, experience, straight talk and independence, qualities they believe help buffer him from many of the ills of his party. The attacks from conservatives that McCain withstood during the Republican primaries served to enhance his brand and bolster his position among moderates and independents, who are critical to winning in November, they contend.

"John McCain has an identity that's well established with the American people," said Steve Schmidt, one of his top political strategists. "He's a person who stands up and fights for what he believes in. It's appealing to independents. It's appealing to conservative Democrats. It's appealing to Republicans."

The campaign's general-election strategy is to sell the McCain brand to show voters that he is distinct from President Bush and other Republicans: His patented town hall meetings will showcase his "straight talk" with voters. His frequent conversations with reporters will highlight his openness and risk-taking. His ads and speeches will tout experience and strength of character.

McCain plans to visit Appalachia and the barrios of Los Angeles in an attempt to burnish his moderate credentials and reinforce the perception that he is willing to reach out broadly. A trip to Europe and the Middle East last month was seen as an effort to remind voters of his reputation for foreign policy expertise, and a biographical tour this month was designed to showcase his patriotism.

Democrats do not dispute that McCain has built a brand; however, they think it's a false one -- the "McCain myth," they call it. Their hope, according to interviews with top Democratic officials, is to chip away at the McCain brand, much as a company might methodically pick at a competitor's product.

Democrats say recent polling and focus groups suggest that McCain's reputation is less solid than his aides believe, especially when it comes to his position on the Iraq war and his image as a moderate politician who is willing to buck his party on key issues.

Since McCain became the presumptive nominee a month ago, Democrats have criticized two campaign loans as evidence that he is not the champion of good government he claims to be. They have noted the prevalence of lobbyists in his campaign. They have repeatedly sought to tie him to Bush to show that he's no maverick. And they seized on a gaffe he made about Iranto argue that he is not as experienced as he claims.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney said: "For a lot of people, they used to like the brand of the maverick. But that's not who he is anymore. Our job is showing people that's not the guy he is."

Hayes Roth, the chief marketing officer at Landor, a firm responsible for burnishing the BP, FedEx and Coors brands, among others, said that "it's not what the other campaigns come up with to assail John McCain. It's how he reacts to them that will make the difference."

The selling of McCain is rooted in one of the oldest theories of product marketing: that a successful brand identity, once established in the American psyche, is virtually impossible to blunt or damage.

A pair of market research firms in South Carolina polled voters there in April and September and concluded that if McCain's brand were a product, it would be part Ford pickup, part Wrangler jeans and part Timex watch.

"His brand strengths were identified as: trustworthiness, looks presidential, prepared for the job, has relevant experience," said Mark Newsome, a senior vice president at Chernoff Newman, which conducted the surveys with MarketSearch. "He's really resting his laurels on his own brand."

But the firms also concluded that McCain's brand has weaknesses: a striking lack of warmth and personal charm. And Democrats insist that there are opportunities to attack the building blocks of the McCain brand, especially his assertion that he is a moderate.

In a recent poll of women in battleground states by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, about 23 percent incorrectly believed that McCain supports abortion rights, compared with 18 percent who understood that he is an opponent. More than half said they did not know where he stands on the issue. Setting the record straight could weaken his hold on some voters, Democrats said.

"There is this reputation of independence that gets conflated with an expectation of moderation," said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin of Hart Research Associates, who conducted the poll for the abortion rights group. "But what we have found is people can be turned around on that with a very few facts."

Last month Democrats pounced on McCain's gaffe about Iranian support for al-Qaeda. In interviews, McCain was angry and dismissive, saying he merely misspoke, while his aides sought to argue that his comments were accurate. The Democrats spent days contrasting the mistake with McCain's claims of experience.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean recently called McCain a "blatant opportunist" on Iraq and the economy, prompting an angry response from Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan, who accused Dean of making "reckless statements attacking John McCain's character and integrity."

Schmidt calls the attacks from Democrats "not very worrisome" because McCain has been seen as standing up to his party and fighting on issues -- the war in Iraq and immigration -- that have damaged him politically.

Independent polling data suggest Schmidt may be right. McCain's favorability, especially among independents, remains far higher than that of Bush or congressional Republicans, suggesting that voters view him differently -- at least for now. Republican support for McCain is stronger than Democratic support for his rivals.

But other surveys present some concerns for McCain. In a recent Gallup poll on presidential weaknesses, 40 percent of voters said they "least wanted" McCain to be elected. Of those, most cited his position on Iraq and his similarity to Bush.

Democrats offer their own polls, which show that 59 percent of voters know "just some" or "very little" about McCain's record on issues.

Even Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is supporting McCain for president, worries that voters have "an incomplete picture of John," saying, "They think of him as a war hero, and perhaps they identify him with the Iraq war." He said that part of his own job on the campaign trail is to tell Americans how McCain has pushed for reform on Capitol Hill.

"I think they sense that he's principled and independent," Lieberman said, "but I don't think they know all the details of what it's taken him to do."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Green Eggs, Ham and Advertising...

Before Theodore Seuss Geisel found fame as a children's book author, the primary outlet for his creative efforts was magazines. His first steady job after he left Oxford was as a cartoonist for Judge, a New York City publication. In 1927 one of these cartoons opened the way to a more profitable career, as well as greater public exposure, as an advertising illustrator.

Strong Start for Oswego’s ‘Power Port’

Courtesy of Chris Gosek, The Palladium-Times

Oswego, New York  (April 10, 2008) - The fiscal year for the Port of Oswego Authority begins each April, and this year is starting out just as the last had left off — busy.

On Thursday, the first set of barges came into the port’s east-side terminal in the late morning and began unloading around 1 p.m. The barges carrying aluminum ingots, which will ultimately end up being used in production at Novelis, was described by port executive cirector Jonathan Daniels as “one of the largest shipments we’ve ever received” at the port.

Daniels also noted that on the east side of the terminal construction has begun to transform barges into stable platforms for geotech work. This work will be done to perform evaluations to determine the possibility of a new nuclear power plant in Scriba. Daniels said that there will soon be jacked-up barges assembled at this location, for a period of three months, that will allow for underwater drilling and surveying work for the proposed nuclear power plant.

 “We were actually within 48 hours of opening that terminal for public use ... then we started discussions with the Bidco company in support of them doing the pre-development work for the plant.” He explained that after reaching an agreement with the company, the port has received a payback on the investments made at the terminal much quicker than he expected. “The port made a significant investment last year ... if you take that revenue from the cargo contract as well as this contract, in less than one year, we have exceeded our expenses for the development of that terminal.

The initial $175,000 we invested to secure a new customer in cargo was significant and now has enabled us to support the proposed construction of the new power plant.” Daniels added that they had initially hoped to earn payback for their initial investment in four to five years.

“The season has started, and we are off to a very good start,” Daniels said. “We have already had five vessels on our west side and now with business starting to come into the east side ... as we look at our process, it certainly bodes well for a strong shipping season.” Overall, only 10 days into their new fiscal year, six vessels have come into the port. Four carried cement, one carried petroleum and Thursday’s vessel carried aluminum.

There seems to be no end in sight for busy times at the port, with Daniels reporting that one of the storage domes at the port has become so full of corn that they had to spill over the remains into their north warehouse. The corn is produced by Perdue and is distributed domestically from the Oswego port as part of an agreement between the two entities. Daniels adds that bringing in a steady flow of business to the port is not a problem, but actually a goal that allows the workers to enjoy more stability in their work schedules.

“It is certainly our goal to create a stable working environment and provide adequate hours of work for our longshoremen,” Daniels said.

The supply of corn stored at the port is expected to grow even larger once the Northeast BioFuels ethanol plant is up and running in Fulton and despite not supplying that facility yet, the port is still servicing the ethanol industry by  shipping corn to a western New York ethanol plant.
By next week, it is expected that the large supply of soybeans stored on site at the north end warehouse will all have been shipped out. Another shipment of soybeans will replace it.
Even with business booming now, Daniels said that possible customers are always being sought out. “We will actually be meeting with a delegation out of Istanbul, Turkey, next week, exploring the options of them shipping transformers into the port,” Daniels said, adding that representatives from Istanbul have showed interest in shipping the 264-ton electrical transformers into the region. These shipments would come in this summer if things go as planned.

“If you look at what we are doing recently, what we have become is a ‘power port,’”  Daniels said, referring to the storage of windmills for wind energy, corn for ethanol production, the assistance in the proposed nuclear plant and the possibility of the electrical transformers. “Couple all of these items with our anticipation that we may see more consistency in the shipments supporting the Novelis operation, and we are covering most forms of energy,” he added.

In addition to bringing new businesses in, there are some unfinished matters that will be taking place at the port during its 2008-09 fiscal year, including the long-awaited dredging project.

“It’s nice to start out strong in the new fiscal year ... with a good start like this and the dredging readying to be started on Aug. 1 ...  and we should be hearing back on our East Terminal Connector project grant ... I think we will stay busy,” Daniels said.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Small Businesses: Defining Your Target Audience

Small business owners know how important it is to be familiar with customer needs and preferences. But having a general idea of what customers want from your business is not enough to create truly effective advertising and marketing campaigns. Entrepreneurs must take that knowledge to the next level and define target audiences to connect with the customers they want to reach.

Target audiences are distinct groups or segments of customers, and clearly defining your business’ target audiences will help you promote the aspects of your business that are most relevant to each group.

Most businesses cater to a variety of clients and customers. Some marketing strategies will be relevant to all those segments, but knowing each target audience well will help you deliver your marketing messages in a way customers will respond to best.

Segment your existing customers

To start defining your target audiences for marketing purposes, take a look at the customers you have now.

  • Who are your best or most profitable clients?
  • Which group of customers makes up the bulk of your business?
  • What do all these customers have in common?

Defining what your customers have in common can help you craft a marketing strategy to draw in more of the same people.

For example, a small diner may find that while customers come in a steady stream throughout the day, the biggest rush comes at breakfast, when profit margins are highest. Who are these customers? If the bulk of the morning rush is made up of commuters, the diner may consider offering a special for anyone carrying a train pass. Or if most of the customers are employees of a nearby company, the diner can offer a discount to anyone with an ID badge from that company.

On a wider scale, you can segment your customers using demographics and psychographics. Demographic information categorizes people in categories like age, location, occupation, sex and income.

Psychographic factors, on the other hand, define people based on their interests, like people who collect comic books or people who breed cats. Questions to ask yourself about your customers can include:

  • What is the age range and median age?
  • Is the group primarily male or female?
  • Are they urban dwellers or suburbanites?
  • Are they highly educated?
  • What are their special interests or hobbies?
  • What is their income range?

Knowing your customers can help you combine these factors to define your target audiences – again, your business likely will have more than one – as specifically as possible:

  • Upper-income women with school-age children
  • Teen-agers living within one mile of store
  • Men over 55 who are interested in digital photography

Learn more about your target audiences

Regardless of how you segment your customers, your primary target audiences should be those customers who make up the bulk of your business or are most profitable. Once you define your target audiences, you must learn about their preferences and habits both as they relate to your business and in context of their own lives.

For example, if your target audience is teen-agers living within one mile of your store, where else are they hanging out and spending their money? Why do they come to your store and not another one down the street?

The only way to develop effective consumer communications is to become knowledgeable about your core target. Some ways to get to know your target markets include:

  • Asking people in your target audience more about themselves. Chat with your customers about what they like, or design a short a survey or questionnaire and give it to current customers and people who might be interested in your product or service. Be sure to explain why you want the information and what you plan to use it for. Offering discounts or a prize drawing for those that complete the survey can help you boost your response rate. 
  • Listen to what people are saying. When customers come to visit your store, or when you are paying a visit to a client, pay attention to what customers say to others. Take note if some themes tend to come up frequently. Perhaps many of the mothers who visit your store have children on the same Little League team, or perhaps the teens coming in are all communicating with their friends through their cell phones. Simply paying attention to your customers is a great way to get insights on what they are thinking. 
  • Visit the places your target audience does. Stop by some of the places your target customers might visit to get even more insight on their outside lives. If your target customer is the 55-year-old male interested in digital photography, where else is he spending his time? Are there digital photography seminars being held in your neighborhood? Go to them and find out what people are saying.

Tailor your marketing objectives to your target audiences

As you learn more about your target audiences, write descriptions of them, making them as specific as possible. Then decide what your primary objectives are with each.

  • Do you want your most profitable customers to refer you to other similar customers?
  • Do you want your most frequent customers to spend more on each visit?
  • Be sure to link your marketing objectives to specific business objectives.

Using the information you’ve gathered about your target audiences, you then can decide whether you can best achieve your objectives by creating one marketing program to accommodate various audiences, including everyone in a single program or running separate programs for each audience.

For example, it may be that most of your customers, regardless of demographics or psychographics, come to your store simply because it provides the lowest price on a certain set of items. In this case, one marketing program for all customers would be the best use of your marketing dollars.

It may be that the bulk of your customers in the morning are business commuters, while your highest-spending customers during the day are mothers with school-age children. In this case, you may advertise a “morning special” good during commuting hours to drive more traffic, while also developing a separate loyalty program offering special benefits mothers may find attractive.

The more clearly you define your target audiences, the better you can reach them and encourage them to support your business. As you track the effectiveness of programs targeting different audiences, be sure to periodically refresh and refocus your research on your target markets.

Customer preferences and business climates are always shifting, and the most successful business owners are those who adapt their businesses to those constant change.

Courtesy of Eric Stephen Swartz, American Marketing Association

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Maurice and Charles Saatchi - Advertising Icons 
With the award-winning London agency they opened in September 1970, "the" brothers went on a 16-year acquisition 
spree that created the world's largest marketing conglomerate and permanently altered and redefined the U.S. advertising landscape. The Saatchis' unprecedented U.S. invasion and acquisition frenzy, essentially driven by a compulsion to be No. 1, involved dozens of companies, including Backer & Spielvogel, Compton Advertising, Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample and Ted Bates Worldwide, as well as research, PR, sales promotion and consultancy firms. And the brothers' financial officer, Martin Sorrell, would split off in '86 to create WPP Group, acquire J. Walter Thompson Co. in '87 and build a rival marketing network. In 1995, Saatchi directors rebelled against the brothers' lavish spending and ousted them from the troubled multibillion-dollar publicly held company. The brothers Saatchi thereupon created M&C Saatchi - a small London-based agency - while Saatchi & Saatchi survived, and WPP Group grew to be one of the top three holding companies. 

Route 104 Oswego Bridge Construction - Updates

Today starts a series of photo updates/news on the Route 104 Bridge Project... from a perch overlooking Bridge Street. The photos today are from Tuesday, April 1st... as the last of the car's crossed the bridge... as well as April 2nd with the bridge blocked to traffic. 

Just some traffic news as well courtesy of the Greater Oswego/Fulton Chamber of Commerce... Beginning April 10th there will be a left turn restriction from W. 1st Street to Utica Street, southbound.  During the hours of 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. and 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. drivers going south on W. 1st Street will NOT be allowed to make a left turn onto Utica Street.  Drivers who have to access Utica Street to proceed east are encouraged to use the established detour routes. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show ‘A Big Success.

OSWEGO, New York - While the Mexico and Pulaski middle school teams may have advanced to the state regional playoffs after winning the Oswego County Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show recently, all of the schools and students that participated were “winners” at the end. 

Moderator Kathleen MacPherson (center) awaits an answer from members of the Pulaski Middle School Team at the 17th annual Oswego County Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show recently at the SUNY Oswego Extension Center in Phoenix. Pulaski and Mexico schools each advanced to the state regional playoffs.“We congratulate Mexico and Pulaski schools for advancing to the state regional playoffs,” said Cindy Albro, prevention director at Farnham Family Services and regional coordinator of the Oswego County Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show. “But quite honestly everyone walks away a winner, because the event provides students the opportunity to learn about important life issues they are facing more and more in our community.”

The event, which was held at the SUNY Oswego Extension Center in Phoenix, was an educational prevention program that provided middle school students with skills and information to help them make important life decisions, in an exciting game show format.

In New York State, the Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show provides alcohol, drug, and tobacco education and information to more than 30,000 middle school students.

“We’re grateful for the strong participation once again this year,” said Albro. “And, we’re thankful to the support we continue to receive locally from our sponsors including: Entergy, Oswego County Stop-DWI, the Lifestyles Center at SUNY Oswego, Valti Graphics, and the Oswego County Take Charge Coalition.”

Peer educators and staff from the Lifestyles Center at SUNY Oswego assisted Farnham Family Services the day of the event, leading activities for students.

Students from across the county competing this year included: APW Middle School, Central Square Middle School, Fulton Junior High School, Mexico Middle School, Oswego Middle School, Emerson J. Dillon Middle School in Phoenix, Pulaski Junior High School, Sandy Creek Junior High and Trinity Catholic School of Oswego.

Farnham Family Services, a non-profit drug and alcohol clinic, coordinates the event.

Established in 1971, Farnham is a United Way agency that offers both prevention services to students in its school-based Student Assistance Program, and treatment services in its clinic program to all residents of Oswego and surrounding counties.

All services are licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

For additional information, contact Albro at (315) 593-7352 or

Brand. Brand. Brand.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

4-H, Oswego County Opportunities, J.C. Penney Collaborate To Provide After-School Program At Hannibal Middle School

MEXICO, New York - Strong collaboration and similar goals brought three community organizations together recently to provide after-school services.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County 4-H program was awarded a $40,000 grant recently from J.C. Penney. They in turn collaborated with Oswego County Opportunities so they could continue their Hannibal After-School. At the Kinney Middle School recently are standing from left: Linda Brosch, 4-H youth development team coordinator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County; Debbie Daby, after school coordinator, Oswego County Opportunities Youth Services; Amy Lake senior youth specialist for Oswego County Opportunities Youth Services; and Jeff Bame, store manager, J.C. Penney, Oswego. Seated are some of the students that participate in the After School Program in Hannibal including from left to right, Fred, Mike, Codie, Corey, Alexis and Hailey.The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County 4-H program was awarded a $40,000 grant from J.C. Penney to help provide after-school services, which in turn helped Oswego County Opportunities Youth Services keep their Hannibal Middle School program running this year, and allow students the opportunity to see what 4-H has to offer.

The partnership began when Oswego County 4-H was seeking involvement in some of the established after-school programs in the area, and heard that OCO was in danger of losing funding for their program at Hannibal Middle School.

“We wanted to apply for a grant from J.C. Penney that was only available to 4-H organizations,” said Oswego County 4-H Team Coordinator Linda Brosch. “When we were made aware of the fact that OCO needed funding for their program in Hannibal we saw a perfect fit.”

Oswego County 4-H applied for the grant and was awarded $40,000.

They in turn collaborated with OCO so they could continue their Hannibal After-School Program weekdays from 2:30 - 5:15 p.m.

Staff from the 4-H program provides additional services two days each week, and a new 4-H Club has begun meeting once a month.

OCO Rural After-School Program Coordinator Deborah Daby has been pleased that the program was able to remain up and running. In January she said the program had more than 120 participating students.

“This was an awesome opportunity for OCO and 4-H,” Daby said. “We continue the program services, and 4-H can participate without having to run the day-to-day needs of the program. This was a truly successful community partnership involving several organizations.”

The J.C. Penney After-School Fund has been financing these types of 4-H after school programs nationwide for several years including groups such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club.

Funding for the program comes from special in-store merchandise sales and other programs like this year’s “Take an NFL Player” to lunch program.

“As a result of the funding we have implemented a variety of 4-H activities with the after-school students,” said Brosch. “One example is ‘Mini-Society’, a game where the youth create their own country including its government, currency and economy. It’s a fun way to teach them fundamental concepts of economic, entrepreneurship and citizenship. The students at Hannibal Middle School called their country Raspafiers Territory and their currency is a Frizzy.”

Oswego J.C. Penney manager Jeff Bame was pleased that his community received a portion of the $1 million total available.

“We were very enthusiastic to learn about the funding, and the benefits we are seeing as result at the Hannibal Middle School,” Bame said. “It’s wonderful to see these initiatives directly impact our local community.”

Bame estimated that between $6,000 - $7,000 were raised for the program at the local Oswego store during the past year.

“It really it comes down to our customers supporting these types of fundraisers,” he added. “With this local award, they can see what their support can do right in their own community.”

Brosch said the program has been a great way to connect with students that may not have known about 4-H previously and extend the mission of the program.

The J.C. Penney After-School Fund is a not-for-profit organization established through J. C. Penney retail stores to raise money specifically available to after school programs through organizations like 4-H.

OCO is a local Community Action Agency that provides a broad range of human services to thousands of individuals in Oswego County.  Services include medical, education, nutrition, residential, transportation and counseling.

4-H is an informal educational program for youth ages 5-19 built on subject matter projects developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension and by the National 4-H Council.

The program information is used by interested adults who serve as volunteer leaders.

Oswego County’s 4-H program is operated through Oswego County Cornell Cooperative Extension in Mexico and funded by a joint effort of the United States Department of Agriculture, Cornell University’s New York State Land Grant College, and the Oswego County Legislature.

To learn more about the Oswego Country 4-H program, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County at (315) 963-7286, ext. 401 or visit