By Diane Turner
What do you think when you hear the word homemaker? The first thing I think is someone who is lucky enough to stay at home with their children or does not have to work outside the home. Others may think it’s about learning how to make jams and jellies or how to sew. Homemakers are really about learning information that will help to improve our families and communities and then using that information to make our communities a better place.
With original communications beginning in 1912, the University of Kentucky saw that there was a need for home demonstration agents to be sent to various counties across the state. By 1914, there were agents placed in 12 counties. Requests came for demonstrations on food preservation, health and sanitation, and clothing conservation. As time passed the success of the home agents was so positive that local women requested for a wider variety of programs. Thanks to the passing of the Smith-Lever Act, funds were made available to keep up with the demand, and the first county homemakers’ organizations were established in 1925. With the help of a Barren County homemaker and a UK physician, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund was established in 1977 and is now the selected philanthropy of the organization.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary for extension in Kentucky. In 2013, a total of 6,150 members volunteered more than 505,000 hours across the state.
According to the Christian County Extension office, there are 16 active homemakers clubs with more than 200 members participating.
Lois Stricklin, a member of the West Fork Homemakers, joined the club after she had her child and stopped working.
“I had already been taking someone to the meetings, and they told me after I quit work that I would have to join now,” she said.
After 62 years, Strickland still looks forward to meeting with the club and going to the Homemakers Open House each year.
There are homemakers clubs for everyone — no matter what age, ethnicity, marital status, employment status or gender, although most members tend to be women or retirees.
Sherry Chilton, of the Rosebuds Homemakers club, said she wanted to be around sweet, God-fearing women.
“I wanted to learn traditional things, and I wanted to make sure my time away from my family was beneficial to my family,” Chilton said.
Libby Lancaster, a member of the Honey Grove Homemakers, joined her club after retiring from a full-time job seven years ago.
“I decided to join homemakers to reconnect with people,” she said.
Another homemakers club blossomed years ago among women who lived at University Heights Apartments. Similar to the Rosebuds, the women decided to create the University Heights Homemakers when they were in their mid-20s to early 30s. Charlene Arvin, a club member, said they all remain close friends.
“Some people moved away, but have come back now,” she said. “We are like family.”
Homemakers focus on many things beside improvements around the home. Each month, members are encouraged to keep up with a brag sheet that lists volunteer hours within the club and in the community. One category includes reading books on the recommended book list drafted by the state board and to children. Considering the creation of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, it is obvious that health concerns are a major focus, and homemakers are encouraged to have yearly screenings as part of their brag sheet.
Homemakers have committees for the following categories: Cultural Arts & Heritage; Environment; Housing & Energy; Family & Individual Development; Food, Nutrition & Health; Leadership Development; Management & Safety; International Endeavors and 4-H Youth Development.
Lessons are crafted based on these categories and for 2014-15 include some of the following topics: Old-Fashioned Recipes with New Guidelines; Etiquette for Adults: Including Social Media & Electronic Devices; Dealing with Grief; The Truth about Gluten and Home Pest Management.
Christian County and eight other counties are located in the Pennyrile region of the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association. Recently, the area meeting was in Grand Rivers. The day was spent with homemakers from across the nine counties and included a session with Anne Murray the Fun Speaker on the topics of introverts and extroverts. Lunch was provided by Broadbent’s of Kuttawa and special music from JW and Amanda Groves of Milbrooke Christian Church, Hopkinsville. The Annual State Meeting will be at the Crowne Plaza in Louisville May 4 through May 7 with many exciting programs planned.
There are many clubs in Christian County that hold their meetings at homes or businesses and at various times of the month. Mailbox Memberships give women who cannot attend regular monthly meetings an opportunity to receive the monthly lessons by mail.
If you are interested in more information about Homemakers, contact Tiffany Bolinger at the Christian County Cooperative Extension Education Office, 2850 Pembroke Road, Hopkinsville, or call 270-886-6328.
By Diane Turner