ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County arm of the N.C. Cooperative Extension will soon be looking for a new director.
Earlier this month, Extension Director Sandra Cain announced her retirement, effective on Thursday.
“I’ve loved my job,” Cain commented. “It’s been very rewarding.”
She added, “I really appreciate the support the county and the state have given to the Cooperative Extension, as well as the support of our sponsors that help us do programs throughout the year.”
Being part of the Cooperative Extension is in Cain’s blood, you could say. Her mother served as director of Bladen County, and growing up, Cain said she learned a lot from the matriarch. She began her own career in the field as a 4-H agent in Hoke County in 1984, then moved back to Bladen County to serve as a Family and Consumer Science agent at the Extension office. She held the position from 2002 until 2015, when she became director. During her two-year tenure as director, she has maintained her responsibilities as Family and Consumer Science agent, often teaching food safety to schools and communities.
It’s those duties of which she’s most proud.
“We’ve had a lot of changes to the ServSafe program,” she explained, referring to a program in which organizations that food serve to the public need to participate in order to obtain a perfect 100 on inspections. “The highest you could make was a 98. We’ve tried to offer it at least twice a year, and by us offering more of that, we’ve seen a lot more restaurants participate.”
The most rewarding part of her job, however, has been the spontaneous feedback she’s received at unexpected times.
“It happens frequently in the grocery store or somewhere that children will point to me and tell their parents I’m the one that talked to their class, or the parents will come up to me and tell me they’re eating better as a family because of what I taught their child,” Cain said. “One woman told me her child started reading labels and they started watching what they eat. Others tell me they’ve started drinking different types of milk or making more healthy snack choices.
“That’s what I’ve loved about this job. It’s rewarding when someone tells you that something they learned from you helped them live a better life.”
Though Cain has no definitive plans for her retirement, she did voice a desire to spend more time with her mother, particularly in traveling “somewhere warm,” and doing some volunteer work.
“If I don’t get this office cleaned out,” she joked, “I may be back here sooner than I think.”
A retirement party was held in Cain’s honor Tuesday afternoon at the Extension office.
The extension director position is funded in part by North Carolina and part by Bladen County. The position has been posted on the Extension website.
The N.C. Cooperative Extension is a joint effort of N.C. State University and A&T State University teams who work with federal, state, and local governments. The program has offices in all 100 counties that work for the development of youth, agriculture, and food and nutrition.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.