- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Cleveland County’s Home and Community Education clubs have evolved and changed with the times, though in many ways they still often provide connections to the past. This week is Home and Community Education Week, and club members and educators have been walking down memory lane.

“When they first started, it was more about canning and how to get your crops to grow better,” Carol Doner told The Norman Transcript (http://bit.ly/1TuEtbe ). She has been a member for 12 years.

Donner is also the Cleveland County President of Oklahoma HCE, which she describes as community education for grown-ups.

“My mom was a member for years and my maternal grandmother was involved also in Payne County,” Doner said. “I grew up in 4-H and OHCE mentors 4-H a lot. It’s like 4-H for grown-ups.”

Doner started the Night Owls group, which is mostly comprised of working women meeting in the evenings to allow for their work schedules. Night Owls has 19 members and the group averages 12 attendees per month. Like all of the OHCE groups, they meet in a room at the fairgrounds and learn something new each month. Dues are $16 per year.

The monthly meetings follow a traditional format of flag salute, prayer, new and old business. Ten months out of the year there is a leader lesson that someone presents to the club.

“We’re always learning something,” Doner said.

The subjects vary widely from quilting to gardening to computers.

“One month this year was zipper craft. We learned how to make bracelets and pendants out of old zippers,” Doner said. “One time there was a class on power points.”

Classes have included useful lessons about cell phones and texting - a big difference from the sort of classes the clubs featured when the clubs were formed.

The Smith Lever Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1914, provided for the cooperation between land grant colleges (Oklahoma State University in the current form) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in extension work in rural areas and Farm Women’s clubs were formed, according to history provided by Cleveland County OU Extension Educator Susan Moffat.

In June, 1916, the first club in Norman and the seventh club in the state was formed when a group of farm women in the Whitemound Community south of town got together to form Farm Women’s Club Neighborly No. 7.

Some people still want to learn the old crafts like canning or how to make a pie crust, Doner said.

“They didn’t grow up with a mother or grandmother who taught them how to do those things,” Doner said. “Last year one of our members taught how to make a pie crust for scratch.”

To enter a pie in the county fair, it must have a homemade crust, but there are other motivations.

“It’s not survivalist at this point, but I think you do have people that realize we could get there again. Some people just want to learn how to do it,” Doner said.

Many people want to learn how to make quilt tops, while only a few want to learn how to hand-quilt. Doner said she is one of that minority. She sat under a quilting frame as a child while the Pleasant Valley Club worked on quilts. She learned to quilt on that same frame. For her it’s a connection to her heritage as well as a creative outlet.

Doner said most of the members used to be women who worked in the home, now most of the women are retired with the exception of the Night Owls. While the clubs don’t discriminate, most of the members are women.

Times have changed and lives are busier. In the early days, the clubs created a social outlet for farm wives who were often isolated. Interest remained strong through the years, but with Pinterest and online videos showing how to do just about everything, the numbers of clubs in Cleveland County have declined from 27 to seven.

Still, the clubs are a chance to connect with people and to give back to the community.

The community service element is important to Doner. The clubs help with different needs in the community like volunteering with the Cleveland County Christmas Store.

OHCE groups have undergone several name changes since 1916. In 1932 groups became known as the Federation of Home Demonstration, changing in 1954 to Home Demonstration. In 1967 groups evolved into Extension Homemakers followed by a name change in 1993 of Family and Community Education. In 2001, they became known as the Oklahoma Home and Community Education (OHCE) groups.

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Information from: The Norman Transcript, http://www.normantranscript.com

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