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Donna DeMun

Featured Article

Hello, Sunshine!

New Oklahoma Home and Community Education Group Serves Little Axe

Jean Lawson lost her husband a year ago and joined one of Cleveland County’s Oklahoma Home and Community Education groups so she could be more involved with her community.

“For me, the group fills a void because my husband and I did everything together,” Jean said. “He supported me in my crafts and my sewing. I think he would be proud of me, and I get to help the community.”

While Jean lives in the Little Axe area, she initially joined another group until someone told her they were starting a local group and needed leadership. Now she’s the president of the new OHCE Sunshine group that meets at the Little Axe Community Center on the second Friday of every month. 

Oklahoma Home and Community Education, Inc. is a statewide, county-based organization that has a unique partnership with Oklahoma State University and OSU Extension. Through their activities, local members develop leadership skills and learn about everything from sewing and crafts to quilting, gardening, safe food handling and canning.

Working together, OHCE members and county Extension Educators like Cleveland County’s Brenda Hill-Alta identify issues facing their local communities and use research-based information from specialists at OSU to help solve those problems.

“Working together, Cleveland County, the OSU Extension Office, and local municipalities can help improve the quality of life for rural residents,” said County Commissioner Darry Stacy. “In this case, the community center is run by the city of Norman Parks and Recreation, and we’ve had a lot of opportunities to partner with them in the Little Axe area for the benefit of the folks who live out here.”

In this case, a key quality-of-life improvement was to obtain sewing machines for the Little Axe Community Center.

“I applied for the grant for the sewing machines through OSU Extension’s State Ambassador program,” Brenda said. “I have done classes at the Little Axe Community Center, and I had many requests for sewing classes, and they needed those resources.”

Those sewing machines are available for the public to use at the community center and they also serve as a resource for the new Sunshine group.

“I appreciate our OHCE members and Brenda Hill-Alta for working with the community center to bring this resource to our east side residents,” Darry said.

The Sunshine group is excited to be sharing skills with area residents and the sewing machines is a boon for all. While Little Axe previously had an OHCE group, over time, members moved away and the group died, leaving a void the new members are anxious to fill.

“This is a new OHCE group,” Brenda said. “It’s a long way into Norman and it’s wonderful that they can have their own little community with a place to grow and a place to learn and to have some equipment to do it with.”

The Sunshine group is coming up with sewing projects and teaching those projects to interested persons.

“I teach them, and they turn around and teach the community,” Brenda said. “They are FCS (Family and Consumer Services) Master Volunteers.”

Brenda said the various OHCE group members can go out and help people in their communities, reaching more people than she could working alone. While some topics, such as canning, must be taught by experts, these master volunteers can teach things like sewing and fine arts.

“We are new and learning,” said treasurer Vickie Gray. “We had several ladies that made exhibits for the fair, and we really learned by going to the fair.”

Vickie said she looks forward to everything she’ll be learning from OHCE and is excited to learn about canning in the future.

“I think these groups get people involved in the community,” Vickie said. “We had a breadmaking class, for example. Our OHCE group has a learner lesson each month, so it’s educational, and we also get together and sew. We learn from each other as well.”

The community center’s new sewing machines are a boon to the group as well as to the community at large.

“We don’t have to haul our machines to the community center now,” Vickie said, also noting that the group participates in activities statewide.

“We visited the sod house in Aline, Oklahoma, and there was a quilting group meeting there so we also learned from them,” she said.

The group is open to anyone interested in learning and people can come check out the activities.

“We’ve tried to invite some of the women out there to join us,” Jean said.

In addition to Jean, many in the group are widows, including Vickie, who lost her husband a few months ago. For all of the members, the camaraderie and the chance to give back to the community brings meaning to their lives.

“It’s a rural community and we needed more activities out here,” Vickie said. “We’re hoping to get more younger ladies and girls involved.”

OHCE members do a number of volunteer activities, but they also seize opportunities to help others when they come along. In one case, a 5-year-old boy wanted to make an apron and they helped him find a child’s pattern and make a Superman apron.

The members also enjoy making gifts or things for their homes.

“We made wind chimes,” Jean said. “We’re trying to do things we can do at the community center and have people who want to come in and join us.”

  • Oklahoma Home and Community Education Sunshine group members Donna DeMun, Vickie Gray and Louise Moody look over Christmas projects.
  • Louise Moody shows pillowcases she’s made as part of the group’s current community service project. The pillowcases will be donated to Oklahoma Children’s Hospi
  • Vickie Gray
  • Donna DeMun