BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
It is undeniable that our culture is moving faster than it ever has. Everything from fast food, paying bills, and even shopping online is for the purpose of making life easier and faster. If life was like college, everyone would be majoring in ‘busyness’. No where can this rapid pace be seen like it is within the family. Moms and dads are constantly running to and fro, taking one child to basketball, while another needs across town for dance. The Polk County Extension Homemakers Clubs [PEHC] are trying to help families navigate through the busyness of life with some help, while also meeting needs in the community.
The EHC is an extension of the University of Arkansas and is a long-standing program, its roots started in 1912. Extension clubs were a major help during the war, canning food and taking it to the schools was just one of the many ways that they were reaching out in the community. “Since the beginning, extension homemaker clubs have been about making a better home and community,” says President of the Polk County Homemaker Extension Clubs Debbie Thompson. The Arkansas Extension Homemaker Clubs are in partnership with the University of Arkansas and the Cooperative Extension Service. The clubs in Arkansas and here in Polk County are funded by county, state, and federal funds from the U of A. EHC embodies the beliefs of the Division of Agriculture, which is to “serve with a zeal to help other.” This concept can be seen through the PEHC. There are many who have benefited from their efforts, including kids in the County’s schools. “We have partnered with the schools in our community through the Backpack Program. One of the biggest ways we can serve the community is by fighting against the food insecurity that so many of our kids face,” explains Debbie.
PEHC exists to make life in the community and in the home flourish. Members of the extension clubs learn and receive training from research-based programs developed by county extension agents and educators from the University of Arkansas system. Members learn things such as how to strengthen families, create and steward resources, and improve health in the family and community. “We have 5 clubs in Polk County all meeting at different times. Generally, we meet once a month and do some training and receive information that will be helpful for us and information that we can make available for the community,” says Debbie.
The extension clubs are always looking for new ways to solve problems and meet the needs of people in their communities. “We really love learning about new things that could help people in the community and especially in their own home. We have provided resources before in financial budgeting and we have tried to help busy moms by showing how easy it could be to prepare freezer meals to accommodate their busy schedules,” says Debbie with a smile.
EHC has played a big part in meeting needs in the community, needs that may even be unique to Polk County. “When you are in your community, you can see needs and when we see those, we do what we can to meet those,” explains Debbie. Along with the needs of Polk County, EHC members have given time and resources to meet the needs of Arkansans such as foster children, adults and children with special needs, and the elderly.
In addition to meeting very specific and impactful needs, one of the PEHC’s biggest events each year is the Polk County Fair. They sponsor the education building, which is where all the art from students in the local schools are showcased. Art from the kids is not the only thing in the building; photos, crafts, art, quilts, and even baked goods can also be found. “We encourage people to enter something into the exhibition hall, it is a fun way to be recognized and there is a chance to win prizes,” says Debbie. Another way that the PEHC is meeting needs in the community is through their quilt show in June. “We sell tickets and all the proceeds go to the single parent scholarship fund. We need volunteers and this would be a good way for people to see what we are all about,” explains Debbie.
The extension clubs in Polk County are always looking for new members to join. “Anyone can come and join us. We have a lot of older people with great life experience and wisdom, but we are looking for younger people as well. We have a great time at our meetings and learn a lot that is helpful for our families and community,” says Debbie cheerfully. The Arkansas Extension Homemaker Club is committed to community service, leadership development, and education for their members. Each member has the opportunity to grow as a leader and an individual, and make a meaningful impact in their community. For more information about the clubs, their meeting times, or the extension service, call (479) 394-6018.