Extension clubs adapting with times

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

For more than 80 years, extension clubs have been in existence in eastern New Mexico, providing education and friendship to area women.

Long-time members say the organization has changed to reflect the times. But the one constant has been the educational component.

Members from across the state traveled to Portales this week to participate in the New Mexico Extension Association state meeting, hosted by the Roosevelt County Extension Association at the Memorial Building.

Extension club member Barbara Miller, of Portales, recently re-joined the organization after a hiatus of several years. A member in the 1970s and 1980s, she’s noticed changes from that era, including the fact there are not as many younger members. Miller says she feels that young married women are missing out on a great learning opportunity.

“We still have great educational programs and a lot of fun,” Miller said.

During the mid 1920s, several clubs were organized and founded in the area, prior to the founding of the New Mexico Extension Association in 1941.

The goal of the clubs was to provide women with information and education to help them in their daily lives, according to historical information on file at the Roosevelt County office.

In the 1940s, during war time, members of the clubs were very active in supporting the men and women in the armed forces and “keeping the home fires burning,” according to the information.

Andrea Cox has served as president of the state association and is also an active member of the Pep Club. She said that besides providing education to its members, the organization has been active in lobbying for issues that concern families.

Extension club members have worked to get hot lunches into the schools, bookmobiles and health offices into the communities, seatbelt use, and parental guidelines on television, Cox said.

“We have lobbied for anything that affects families,” Cox said.

A survey was conducted 15 years ago asking extension members why they joined the organization, Cox said. Most of them replied that they joined because of family, but 90 percent of the women went on to say that they stayed because of the educational aspect, she said.

In the early years, education focused on things such as sewing, quilting, canning, gardening methods, freezing and storing of food and even making mattresses, said Connie Moyers, Roosevelt County home economist.

Today the focus has changed to meet the needs of today’s women. More of the groups focus on community service. They also continue to participate in educational and craft programs, Moyers said.

In Roosevelt County, clubs donated cans for Habitat for Humanity that netted over $600. Individual clubs also prepare Christmas baskets and back to school bags for needy families and provide scholarships to students, Moyers said.

Quay County Home Economist Brenda Bishop said that the extension clubs in Quay County also have a strong commitment to the community. One club has adopted a local nursing home and devotes its time to cheering the residents with crafts and other necessities.

One club works to maintain a book exchange in its community and also writes its own community newspaper. Another club takes care of the local cemetery and works to support its local fire station and 4-H youth. The clubs are also very active in working at the county fair, she said.

“They do big things to help the community,” Bishop said.

As times change, educational programs are geared to fit the needs of the clubs. In the past, programs have been conducted to teach members about new things such as microwaves and cell phones or a new sewing technique. Today, education focuses on issues of health and public policies that affect members and their families, Cox said.

“You just have to find out what the needs are,” Cox said.