Helping Oklahomans live their best lives through education and service. That’s what Oklahoma Home and Community Education, Inc. is all about.
OHCE has been around for the better part of a century – it was established in 1935 – and this week, May 6-12, marks an annual statewide recognition of the organization’s service to Oklahoma families and communities.
Though residents may not be well acquainted with the organization, it’s highly likely they’ve benefitted in some way from OHCE’s local, national and even international outreach.
“OHCE is an extremely giving organization that collectively does many outstanding things both here in the state of Oklahoma and around the world,” said Kathy Fentress, OHCE state vice president.
In fact, seven years ago when Fentress was looking for volunteer opportunities and a way to meet other women in her local community in McCurtain County, OHCE’s giving nature was a huge attraction.
“Such a generous and hard-working organization makes a huge difference in everything it touches!” she said.
Even with data from only a third of OHCE groups reporting their outreach activities in 2017, the eye-popping numbers spotlight just how busy the organization’s 3,600-plus members have been: more than 72,000 pounds of materials recycled; over $47,000 worth of clothing donated; more than $48,000 in plants, trees and shrubs planted; and over 73,000 volunteer hours logged in nursing home visits, reading and tutoring, equaling an economic value of more than $1,734,862.
According to its website, OHCE’s ultimate mission is to “educate its members to be well-informed and able to handle changes in their homes and communities.”
Through its close relationship with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, which is headquartered at Oklahoma State University, OHCE members translate that vision into reality by learning then sharing research-based information on a wide variety of topics.
More specifically, county based OHCE groups work with family and consumer sciences Extension educators in each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, as well as district and state Extension specialists, to identify local issues, develop educational programming and launch service projects to help families and communities address their concerns.
There also are 83 OHCE members serving as Master FCS volunteers and another 15 operating as Master Wellness Volunteers in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. In these roles, OHCE members receive extensive training and help expand Extension’s efforts across the state to help enhance people’s quality of life.
Additionally, OHCE contributes to charitable organizations in local communities, statewide and worldwide.
Shelia Burnett, OHCE state secretary and an active member of an OHCE group based in Rogers County, said the organization is vitally interested in educating Oklahomans so everyone can live better, safer and happier lives.
“We are interested in helping to provide this education through any way possible,” said Burnett, who joined OHCE a few years after retirement then spent time searching for ways to keep busy, including “snowbirding” in South Texas and working at various U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes and parks as well as substitute teaching in the summer.
“None of the items I tried seemed to be what I needed. I wanted to be with a group of people my age that was doing something for the community and, most of all, that I enjoyed doing,” she said. “I continue to be a member because I found most of the things that I felt were requirements for my joining in the first place.”
With the group’s heavy emphasis on education, it’s not surprising there’s an especially strong push to support young people.
“We help with the young people of our community through 4-H and other projects,” Burnett said. “Scholarships are a way for us to help with the youth of our community.”
In fact, OHCE awards tens of thousands of dollars annually to Oklahoma students and for various individual and community projects. In the past six years, the total amount the group has poured into the state far eclipses $200,000.
OHCE programming and outreach isn’t only limited to youth, though.
The organization offers a robust slate of educational offerings including, but certainly not limited to, health and well-being, nutrition, voting rights, financial issues and budgeting, disaster planning, generational differences, recycling, reading improvement and women’s issues.
“These programs are open all across the state to everyone, not just members. OHCE members often take many programs directly to their communities in various ways,” Fentress said. “The more we learn, the better people we become. OHCE, with groups all across the state, is a vehicle for adding knowledge and improving the well-being for all Oklahomans.”
Although OHCE primarily focuses its good works on Oklahoma, it’s affiliated nationally with the Country Women’s Council of USA and internationally with The Associated Country Women of the World.
OHCE groups have sewn uniforms for young girls in Fiji, who otherwise would be unable to attend school without the required attire.
As part of an international initiative launched by the state board, OHCE funded transportation costs for nine students from an impoverished village in Mexico with an aim of helping them finish high school and continue on to university. Eight of the students have graduated from high school and are attending university and one is completing the final year of high school.
Along with all OHCE accomplishes Burnett pointed to an additional perk of working with the organization.
“This group – OHCE – is fun. You make friendships that are life lasting,” she said. “I am truly blessed with this group.”
Looking ahead, she expects OHCE to keep learning and sharing.
“I see continuation of what we do best – learning ourselves and teaching others – as our main and best focus to be helpful to the people of Oklahoma,” she said. “We must remember that our future is our young people. Recruiting younger members to our groups is vital to this.”
For more information about the organization, visit ohce.okstate.edu.
MEDIA CONTACT: Leilana McKindra | 405-744-6792 | firstname.lastname@example.org