On July 31, 1947, The Metropolis News published an article announcing the Massac County Home Bureau would be organized on Aug. 6, 1947, at Metropolis Methodist Church.
A total of 377 homemakers in Massac County joined the Home Bureau during the organization’s inaugural meeting and organized 18 units throughout the county. Those founding unit names included Cornerstone, Round Knob, Fairview, Joppa Hustlers, Brooklyn, Lower Salem, Choate Homemakers, George’s Creek, Volleville and Brookport.
The 75th anniversary of the beginning of what is now Massac County Home and Community Education will be marked at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at St. John’s Church, 6201 Waldo Church Road, Metropolis.
Everyone is invited, especially new, current, potential and former members.
The day, centered on the theme “Aspire to Inspire,” will feature information about HCE and history on the local organization. Speakers will include present IAHCE president Angela Hicks, IAHCE Cultural Enrichment director Becky Belcher and District 5 director Carol Harms. Units will decorate their tables with history items of their units. Scrapbooks and a Powerpoint presentation will aid in the reminiscence. New and longtime IAHCE members will be recognized. Special quilts made by Massac HCE members through the years will also be on display. Extra lessons will be on hand for guests to take and learn more about what HCE has available for members.
This is a special time in the history of Massac County Home and Community Education. Come and enjoy the afternoon.
IAHCE will mark its 100th anniversary in 2024. According to its website, the organization traces its roots to July 1915 when Kankakee County hired Eva Benefiel, a graduate of the University of Illinois, as an advisor to develop a home improvement association. As the University of Illinois representative, the home economic advisor’s role was to educate women with current and relevant information on the home, the family and agriculture they could use to develop ways of making life better for their families and, ultimately, their communities, while they spent time in fellowship and sharing.
Kankakee was the first county to organize a Home Bureau in Illinois and the second in the United States. Through education, patience and perseverance, the organization grew with 15 counties organized by 1919 with each having its own Extension home advisor. The Illinois Home Bureau Federation came into being in January 1924 by the action of a state conference consisting of the representatives of the various counties. The first formal annual meeting, which included the election of officers, was held in January 1925.
In November 1947, Katherine Brittingham became the first home economics advisor for Massac County. Leo Sharp was the farm advisor at that time. Both were employed by the University of Illinois Extension.
Soon after the local organization was established, a group of Home Bureau leaders made plans for an Organization Day to be held at Fort Massac State Park. During this meeting, committees were formed and planning began. Pearl Barnes, president of the Illinois Home Bureau Federation, installed the county officers.
After Organization Day, a home adviser was provided by the University of Illinois Extension to work among the homemakers of the county. All women from rural and urban communities were invited to join. Anyone wishing to join could sign a membership card and pay a $5 membership fee to be part of the organization. Many of the original Home Bureau members were former 4-H members in their youth and maintained their interest in their county and its achievements.
Some of the first units organized were Cornerstone, Volleville and George’s Creek. When asked to share their experiences, one homemaker spoke of the group she was a part of and described the members as being very close and always ready to help each other in joys or sorrows.
The organization’s name changed in the mid-1960s to Massac County Homemakers Extension Association. While many things have changed since then, only two of the original units — Volleville and George’s Creek — have remained intact over the 75-year history of the organization.
One of the cornerstones of the organization is the educational lessons provided to members.
Through the years, some of the most memorable lessons included: Cancer Control, Different Ways of Using Jell-O, Efficient Use of the Sewing Machine, Yeast Breads and How to Make Slip Covers.
In recent years, lessons have included: The Bread Machine, Nutritional Supplements, Heart Disease in Women, Identity Theft, Disaster Preparedness, Creating Easy Meals in a Hurry and more.
As was the case 75 years ago, most of the lessons continue to be provided by the University of Illinois Extension and prove to be current with information for the time.
Over time and budget cuts, the use of an home economic advisor per county has changed to a district educator covering multiple counties. Educators specialize in different areas, such as nutrition and wellness, family and consumer science, agriculture, technology, natural resources, environment and energy. In conjunction, each county’s farm advisor is now a district director covering multiple counties whose role includes works with HCE in each county. For Massac County, the Extension educator is Erin Garrett, who specializes in natural resources, environment and energy. The district director is Jody Johnson.
The dues have varied slightly through the years. When state dues increased to $5 per member, county dues had to increase to $10 per year to pay for the state membership dues and county expenses. To help fund expenses for programs, newsletters, scholarships and assistance to local charities, the county members and units organize fundraising events and seek donations to support the organization’s many initiatives and the community.
Over the 75-year history of the organization, a driving goal has been to support local charities and community members.
Toward this effort, HCE members: have donated money to support the hospital treatment of babies who have been diagnosed with AIDS; made and donated bookbags, caps and gloves; donated personal care items to Guardian House, nursing homes and veterans; honor local 911 emergency agencies by donating care packages and thank you cards; donating bed sheets to hospice; sewing and donating weighted blankets for people who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder; and donate supplies and volunteer at Ronald McDonald House Charities, Project Hope and Hope Unlimited.
In addition to supporting and donating items to local community organizations and charities, Ella Mae Main, a longtime HCE member, helped the organization establish a high school scholarship program in 1990 for seniors in Massac County schools. This program has continued to support students who are pursuing post-secondary education in the areas of home, family, environment and agricultural studies.
Over the past 75 years, caring for and enriching homes, families and communities has been the focus of the lessons presented and made available to each member. Additionally, workshops have been offered to give special attention to designing quilts, making cards, creating Tree of Life pendants, refinishing furniture, weaving baskets and more.
In 1993, the state organization changed its name to Illinois Family and Community Education Association. Two years later, Illinois voted to change the name to Home and Community Education Association (IAHCE). At that time in 1995, the Massac County organization changed its name to the Massac County Home and Community Education Association.
Despite the changing names of the organization, its focus on caring for and enriching homes, families and communities through learning opportunities has remained constant.
Some of the active units in the county were formed as a result of consolidation among previous units. For example, Town and Country was formed in 1988 from the disbanded Sundowners & Willing Workers unit.
Other units have maintained consistent membership and/or geographical regions through the years. New Frontiers was formed in 1976 and continues to meet; the Volleville unit is still meeting with members who are new and who are former members of other units; and George’s Creek membership is still primarily located in the New Hope Baptist Church area of the county.
Seventy-five years later, the main goal of what HCE has to offer its membership and the community is still the same as its aim, written by home economist Juliet Lita Bane in 1919, suggests: “An Aim for the Homemaker: To have the home economically sound, mechanically convenient, physically healthful, morally wholesome, mentally stimulating, artistically satisfying, spiritually inspiring, founded upon mutual affection and respect.”