December 08, 2010 Edition

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EHC 50-year members honored

Helen Blackburn (left) and County Extension Interim Staff Chair Herb Ginn (right) recognize Daphine Starr (second from left) and Lillian Rooker, members of the Smithville Extension Homemakers Club, for 50 years of membership in EHC.
Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

A half-a-century ago, two young wives joined a club that changed their lives. This year Lillian Rooker and Daphine Starr celebrate 50 years as part of the Extension Homemakers of Lawrence County, which is part of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Arkansas.

The Home Demonstration Club Women's Creed outlines power found in a homemaker's work. It reads in part, "I believe that the greatest force that molds character comes from the home, and I pledge myself to create a home which is morally wholesome, and spiritually satisfying and physically healthful and convenient."

"Everything I know now is due to what I was taught in Homemakers," said Rooker.

At the age of 35, Starr moved from Hot Springs in 1962 with her husband to the family farm in Smithville. She was asked by her mother-in-law to join her at a club for homemakers.

"I didn't want to go, but went so my mother-in-law could have a ride," said Starr. "I enjoyed that meeting so much, however, that I just never stopped going."

Rooker was also a transplant from out of state. When she visited her in-laws in Lawrence County, she and her mother-in-law would attend the Home Demonstration Club (now the Extension Homemakers). So when Rooker moved to Smithville, she naturally joined. "I was already hooked," said Rooker.

"Meetings then were very different than they are now. We had classes on cooking, sewing, gardening, crafts, health and other things. We completed projects of all kinds," Rooker said. "It was the most educational club in America!"

"My favorite was sewing. We started with a gathered apron and progressed until at the last class we made a tailored jacket with lapels, lining and bound-button holes," said Starr. "I learned something at every meeting."

"At first we would meet in people's homes and then moved to Smithville Community Center when we had too many to fit in one house. Children were welcome at the meetings. The hostess would provide wonderful refreshments," said Starr. "Our houses definitely got a good scrubbing before we hosted those meetings."

The Creed also states that "I believe that through working together in a group we can enlarge the opportunities and enrich the life of rural people."

The Extension Homemakers Club not only brought the ladies together once a month for fun and learning, but also united the entire community. The homemakers enjoyed working closely with the 4-H youth program. Service was also a big part of the activities. Some of the service projects included raising money for a historical marker, the fire department and Smithville street signs. In one project the club made approximately 250 pillows to help mastectomy patients after surgery.

"We had specialists from the U. of A. at Little Rock as well as local home economics teachers to instruct us. We were then expected to share what we learned with 10 other people in our own community," said Starr.

"We would advertise workshops on the radio," said Rooker. "It was amazing how many community members would come to those meetings!"

Members of the Extension Homemakers also heavily participated in the county fair each year. They would bring jams and sewing projects, as well as baked goods. Rooker said that participation in the fair was a "big deal." Starr said that the fair was "much larger" back then.

Both Rooker and Starr have served in the positions of president, secretary, treasurer and reporter. Rooker has been the club's reporter for the past 20 years.

"We've both been very active in the club. After 50 years we've pretty much done everything there is to do," said Starr.

"We also went on several trips," said Rooker. "One year I was newly assigned as the citizenship representative and went on a wonderful trip to Washington, D.C."

Other trips enjoyed over the years included several to Little Rock to see the state Capitol, the Senate and the Ice Capades. Conferences were enjoyed in Fayetteville, Memphis and other places.

Rooker said, "Conferences included clubs from all over the state that would join together for classes, fun and food. There was lots of food and ice cream."

The Extension Homemakers Club has modernized over the years as the needs of women in the community changed. Once women started needing to work right out of high school, the Homemakers' Club started to focus on health, finances and child development. There are six active clubs in Lawrence County located in Eaton, Smithville, Clover Bend, Imboden and two in Black Rock.

The Creed ended with the statement that "I believe in my own work, as a homemaker, and accept the responsibility it offers to be helpful to others and to create a more contented family and community life, so that in the end farm life will be most satisfying."

"Participating in the Homemakers has made us better people," said Rooker. "It gave us confidence to accomplish anything we tried."

"I learned how to do anything I wanted," said Starr. "And learned that there wasn't anything I wanted to do that I couldn't learn how."

For more information about the Extension Homemakers Clubs, call the Lawrence County Extension Office at 886-3741.

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