They have been “farm wives,” “Home Demonstration ladies,” “Extension Homemakers,” “FCE” and now “Oklahoma Home and Community Education” groups, but through it all, members of the county’s OHCE groups have maintained their tradition of service to the community.

Instead of spending their days cooking and canning and working in the garden, today’s OHCE members are active in a wide variety of community projects. They still like to cook and garden, but much of their time is spent outside the home in activities that make the entire county a better place in which to live.

The week of May 7-13 was observed as OHCE Week in Oklahoma, and several local events were held as part of the celebration, including several of the groups that entertained their “sister groups” as part of the observance.

The Gleaners OHCE group celebrated its 50th anniversary Friday at the Stephens County Historical Museum. What is now the Gleaners actually began in 1936. They were then known as the Liberty Home Demonstration Club, which disbanded in 1942. In 1942, former Liberty members formed a group called the Red, White and Blue Club. In July 1956, the group changed its name to Gleaners Home Demonstration Club. The name was chosen to remind members to “glean” from what they have learned and apply it to everyday life.

Four county presidents have come from the Gleaners group. Vicki Malone served from 1978-1980; Peggy Winton, from 1986-88; Carol Allison, from 2001-02; and Kathleen Williams, 2003-04. In January, Malone will begin her second two-year term as county president.

Officers of the Gleaners include Malone, president; Louise Calaway, vice president; Sharon Hobson, secretary; Catherine Hurst, treasurer; Williams, reporter; Patti Peacock, long leader, and Lawana Hendrix, parliamentarian. The group has 11 active members. It meets at 9:30 a.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. For information, call Williams at 580-252-3116,

n The Claud OHCE group was organized about 1932, primarily by women living in the Velma area. It was named for the Claud community. It meets at 1:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

Officers include Katherine Barrick, president; Marie Layn, vice president; Dean Wright, secretary/treasurer; and Francine Newman, reporter.

n Sunshine OHCE was organized in 1921 as a social club called West Ward Sunshine Club. The name was chosen by members of the club with the assistance of children at West Ward Elementary School.

Mary Sevier is president of the group. Other officers include Joy Jackson, vice president; Norma Young, treasurer; Darlene Bradford, secretary; Betty Eby, reporter; and Barbara Cox, parliamentarian. The group has about 16 members on its roster. It meets at 9:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

n Comanche Homemakers OHCE group was, not surprisingly, organized in 1955 by women in the Comanche area. When the group was formed, there were so many women who wanted to be a part of the organization that membership had to be limited to 20.

Patsy Powers is president of the group. Other officers include Alice Kimberlin, vice president; Carol Grubbs, secretary; Mayme McMasters, treasurer; Shirlee Hollinsworth, reporter; and Altha Benson, song leader. The group meets at 1:30 p.m. on the second Friday of each month.

n Oak College OHCE group was organized in 1924 by Esther Martin, who was then the county home demonstration agent. The group began as the Oak College Farm Women’s Club. The name comes from the school that once stood west of Comanche called Oak College School.

Oak College meets at 12:30 p.m on the third Tuesday of each month. Officers include Kim McGarr, president; Jean Bezner, vice president; Zelpha Taylor, secretary; Pearl Morrow, treasurer; Barbara Hartley, reporter; Mary Ausbrooks, song leader; and June McGuire, parliamentarian.

n Moran OHCE was organized in April of 1949. After many years of community involvement, the group disbanded in January of 2004. Some of the members have now joined other OHCE groups.

n Rock Creek OHCE was organized in 1943 in the Rock Creek community. Little of the community now remains except the cemetery, which is still used, but residents in the area are still active in the OHCE group. It meets at 1 p.m. on the first Monday of each month.

Officers include Sue Holland, president; Alice Maxey, vice president and treasurer; Joanne Brooks, secretary/reporter; and Karen McCown, parliamentarian.

Each of the groups has a pet project, in addition to service projects throughout their communities. Gleaners, for instance, volunteers hours and supplies in support of the Compassion Center. One of Claud OHCE’s projects is preserving the old Claud school building, which now serves as a community center.

All of the groups participate in county projects. A recent joint project was the two-day Sew-In at the county fairgrounds, where quilts were made for presentation to people who lost their homes in the recent wildfires in the area. Fifty-one quilts were completed during the Sew-In and on a follow-up day that was scheduled to finish up the project, and are now being presented to the families affected.

OHCE also has an ongoing state project: “Can’t Weight to Walk,” that has challenged members to wear pedometers and count their steps to encourage exercise. Beginners are urged to start slowly and work their way up to at least 10,000 steps each day. With the success of the campaign over the past couple of years, the local groups are branching out to include children and young people in their area. Gleaners is working with several Girl Scout troops to help them develop the habit of exercise. A chuck wagon meal recently concluded an eight-week “Walking the Chisholm Trail” project for Sunshine OHCE group and some Stephens County home-schooled students with whom members worked.

Local OHCE groups also collect pull tabs from soft drink cans; boxtops, coupons and soup labels; personal-care items for veterans centers; medicine bottles and other items for the Compassion Center; teddy bears for the emergency room at Duncan Regional Hospital and for law enforcement officers who deal with children in crisis; and provide toys and volunteers for the annual Department of Human Services foster children’s Christmas party. They also sew hundreds of Ouchie dolls for the Stephens County Health Department to give to children who receive immunizations. The little dolls are just scraps of fabric filled with polyester batting, but the kids love the comforting little characters.

And, of course, all of the groups participate in the Stephens County Free Fair each fall. In addition to individual entries, each group has its own informational booth and other displays, and takes pride in the ribbons it earns for its efforts.

For information on OHCE or to find a group to join, call the OSU Extension Center at 580-255-0510. Brenda Gandy, Extension educator for family and consumer sciences in Stephens County, works with the OHCE groups.

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