By Elizabeth Keys
For more than 90 years, Oklahoma Home and Community Education groups in Payne County have been hard at work serving the communities where they live — all in fun and fellowship. To honor their dedication, May 5-11 is designated OHCE Week throughout the state.
“We have a long history of community service in Oklahoma,” said Dea Rash, Payne County Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator and adviser to the OHCE program. “For years we were known as the OSU Extension Home Demonstration clubs with groups serving our communities for nearly as long as we have been a state.”
Thousands of OHCE members serve in over 300 groups across the state. Every year, these members donate more than a half million community service hours towards helping people and programs in need.
In Payne County, seven OHCE groups meet once per month and are involved in a number of projects year-round. The county fair kitchen is one fundraiser they are well-known for throughout the community as they operate a full-service cafe with fruit and cream pies. Funds raised from serving homemade meals during the county fair contribute to two college scholarships awarded each year.
County educators in Family and Consumer Sciences work closely with local OHCE groups to bring the latest research-based information from Oklahoma State University to each community.
“Offering continuing education for self-development in home and community life continues to be an important focus of OHCE,” Rash said.
Elizabeth McClain, OHCE Payne County president, said the organization’s focus for this year is the “Raising Young Readers” initiative for preschoolers and the international “Water for All” campaign. Every year, Oklahoma OHCE funds the drilling of at least two new wells for citizens living in third-world nations. The Raising Young Reader campaign pours books into the hands of school children’s families.
The groups also provide members with social and learning opportunities, as well as positive outlets for community service and development. Many help with 4-H activities, she said. Service projects include making tooth fairy pillows for students, care packages for the troops and lap robes and bibs for nursing homes. The groups in Payne County are having a contest to manage their resources with individual recycling measures recorded to win awards.
“Our state OHCE week is a wonderful opportunity for us to open up our groups to new members,” McClain said. “Anyone who wants to get involved in community service, but isn’t really sure how, can join one of our groups and get started making a contribution and meeting new friends.”
OHCE members are adults of all ages who are interested in continuing their education on issues affecting family and developing life skills. Lesson topics cover areas such as cultural enrichment, health, nutrition, parenting, and financial management.
There are groups meeting at night, at lunch and during the day. For more information about an OHCE group to fit your interests, contact the Payne County OSU Cooperative Extension Service at 405-747-8320.