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March 11, 2012

Posted by Elaine Stoll, Ravendon, Arkansas, Lawrence County

I am currently serving as Treasurer of Lawrence County Extension Homemakers Council (2010-2012).  I have also served as President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer at the local and county levels. I have also served on the State Level as District Director, Secretary, Vice President, President-Elect, President (2006-08), Immediate Past President, and am currently President of the Past Presidents Organization.  My husband, John, and I are currently serving as Co-Chairs of the Equipment Committee for the State Meeting.
As President-Elect and President, I was privileged and honored to represent Arkansas at the CWC (Country Womens Council, NVON (National Volunteers Outreach Network, and ACWW (Association of Country Women Worldwide meetings in Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, and Indiana.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the ACWW meeting that was held in Hot Springs. 

I first became involved with Home Demonstration Clubs as a young girl, when my mother and I would walk three or more miles to attend meetings.  Other children were allowed to play outside during meetings, but I was required to stay in the house, sit by Mother and pay attention.  Not far from the theory that children should be seen and not heard, Mother’s statement was, “You children may not be the smartest or cutest, but you will behave, or I will know why!!”  From that beginning, I progressed to 4-H in SharpCounty, where I competed in the Talent Division on the county, district and state levels.  At that time, State competition was held at Fayetteville U of A Campus.

 EHC was an outlet for me.  I would get the two babies ready, put a baby or the diaper bag in my Mother-in-law’s lap and push her in the wheelchair down the street to the meetings.  There we met with my Mother and Grandmother and a host of other ‘Grannies” to help with the babies.
We moved back home from Willow Springs, MO in 1970 when my in-laws needed more than weekend care.  Since Mother, Grandma, Mrs. Stoll and Aunt Myrtle were already members, I also joined the Ravenden EH Club because it was important to and for the family.  After that club dissolved, Marsha Onley and Rene Prior encouraged me to join  the Imboden Club.  I took it to another level becoming active on the county, district and state levels.  If my calculations are correct, this is my 42nd year as a member, and 62 years if you include my attendance as a small child.  Since I will turn 65 in March, this should make me a ‘life member.”
My earliest memories of attending HDC include the summer picnics that were community picnics on the river.  Everyone brought a covered dish, and the hostess provided the sweet corn, since we were between the Spring River and the corn field.  The husbands also attended and gathered in one area, while the children played in another, and the ladies put out the wonderful food.
In those days, the HDC agent came to every meeting and presented the lesson, or demonstration, usually on sewing, cooking, preserving foods, or money saving tips.  This was a good trick, since there wasn’t any money in our community to save!
My oldest sister, Betty (Burkhammer) Green, competed in the Fashion Show with a dress that she made and won a blue ribbon.  I recently gave her daughter the certificate and picture.  My brother, Cloyce, was a pianist, and he too competed at the county, district and state levels.  He won lots or contests since it was unusual for boys to play the piano so well.  Mother and Grandma Hendrix were active in gathering names and dates for the Lawrence County Cemetery Records in the early 1960’s, and we have a copy with their names on the acknowledgement page.  My mother, Mrs. Joe (Geraldine) Burkhammer, Mrs. Capitola Hendrix, my Grandma, my mother-in-law, Mrs. John (Zeruiah Watts) Stoll, and her sister, Aunt Myrtle Watts, were all active in the Ravenden Club.
Ms. Turmine Carroll, Lawrence County Agent, was just a few months from retirement when I became active. Then Miss Diane Formby came to our county agent, and shortly after, Miss Gail Wheidekher from Altus came.  Both ladies married local men, and Mrs Gail W. (C.L.) Clark is still in the county.  Diane chose to further her education and became Dr. Diane Jones and was an important Staff Specialist Associate Director of Family and Consumer Sciences in the U of A, Little Rock office.  These ladies held workshops on cooking, sewing, drapery making, tailoring, pattern alterations and about anything that everyone needed.  They did this with smiles and friendship, no matter what their circumstances were, and we treasure them.
Over the years, our county has lost members to age, moving to areas to find work, etc, but I have continued to be active because of the bond that exists between EHC ladies.  Most of them will come to each others rescue, day or night.  Also the new information that comes from the state office and is made available on line, on paper or in person is so helpful in everyday life.
A change that I don’t necessarily agree with is that sewing, tailoring, etc. are not seen as important as they once were.  However, I realize that priorities have changed, and the younger generations don’t realize that they need to know all the Heritage Skills.  I would like to see more technological subjects offered to us older people.
Our members were so happy to be able to help Arkansas Children’s Hospital and UAMS Neo-Natal Units with baby caps.  Since babies’ skin is so fragile, Dr. Frazier needed some way to keep scalp electrodes attached without using tape.  Over 72,000 caps of various sizes and colors were made and donated by our ladies.  Preemie blankets and burial gowns were also collected for both hospitals.  It is so great to be a part of such a caring and giving organization.  Some counties continue to make cancer turbans and breast comfort pillows.  Personally, I hope these projects continue in the future.
Meeting friends from the past and making new friends is such a bonus to Extension Homemakers and for that purpose alone, I encourage everyone to join a club.  With so much information available both on internet and hard copy, plus the lifetime friendships, it is incomprehensible to me why everyone doesn’t want to participate.

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