The Hendricks County Extension Homemakers Welcomes One & All
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
The Hendricks County Extension Homemakers has been in Indiana for more than 100 years. The organization was originally developed in a time when women mostly worked inside the home, raising children, cooking and sewing. The Homemakers provided them the opportunity to meet with and learn from others who were doing the same things, like canning vegetables and sewing. Over time, it evolved into a community service group in which they would offer lessons to others in the community. Now, they do quarterly lessons on things like managing finances and decluttering the house.
Karla Janning, the Hendricks Civic Theatre Board President and Sponsorship Coordinator, was first exposed to the Homemakers when she was a little girl because her mom was part of a Home Ec Club. That’s primarily why she chose to get involved as an adult.
“I love the connections made with the Hendricks County Extension Homemakers as well as their commitment to community involvement,” Janning says.
The Extension Homemakers is a big Indiana group. Different counties have their own groups, which then create their own clubs. For instance, Janning leads the Young Moderns Club. The Hendricks County Extension Homemakers currently has seven clubs, which meet monthly.
As a county, the Homemakers do something called First Books for Head Start in which once a month participants sign up to read to different classrooms in the Head Start building. They then give a copy of the book they read to each student in the class. At the end of the school year, students get a book bag that the Homemakers make. Regardless of whatever clubs you are a part of, you can participate in First Books for Head Start.
The Homemakers also participate in Make a Difference Day. Again, one doesn’t have to be involved in the clubs to participate. On this day, anyone who enjoys sewing or crafting can come together to make tie-fleece blankets, which are donated to the homeless as well as to patients at Riley Children’s Hospital. Monthly they also do Helping Hands in which they prepare materials that will be used on Make a Difference Day.
To help educators in the community, the Homemakers provide $150 teacher grants. Any licensed teacher in the county can go onto the Purdue Extension website to submit an application for classroom supplies.
In addition, each May, the Hendricks County Homemakers bestows two $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors in Hendricks County. The recipient doesn’t necessarily have to be someone affiliated with Home Extension. For example, they’ve given scholarships to students who are pursuing a nursing degree, education degree and a number of other interests. To raise money to award these scholarships, the Hendricks County Homemakers hold two big annual fundraisers, both at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds. One is the Holiday Fest and Cookie Walk, a December event that attracts 50+ vendors, most of which are homemade craft makers. For this event, every Extension Homemaker in the county bakes six dozen or more Christmas cookies, which are packaged and sold by the pound. These treats are hot commodities every year.
“Holiday Fest starts at 9 a.m. and often within the first two or three hours, we are sold out of cookies,” Janning says. “I think sometimes people think, ‘Oh, I have a Christmas party to go to and don’t want to make cookies myself’ so they buy them here.”
During Holiday Fest, the Hendricks County Treble Makers, a county choir, sings holiday tunes, as do preschool kids from Bartlett Chapel and kids from Head Start. Mrs. Claus passes out candy canes to shoppers.
Around the holidays, the Homemakers also collect hats, scarves and mittens to donate to different nonprofits like Sheltering Wings (which helps survivors of domestic violence find safety) and Susie’s Place (a child advocacy center).
“We are a community service group who wants to help out in any way,” Janning says.
Their other big fundraiser is held in the summertime during the Hendricks County Fair when the Homemakers run an open class for anyone who is not a 4-H member to enter craft or food items to be judged.
“We give away ribbons and prizes just like in 4-H,” Janning says. They take the baked goods that are left over and sell them on Sunday in an auction with all proceeds going to the Hendricks County Extension Homemakers.
“Sometimes we’ll sell five cookies for $5. We once had a pie go for $140,” Janning says. “It just depends who is there.”
Currently, the Hendricks County Extension Homemakers consist of about 100 people, but the numbers dwindle each year. A lot of people assume that the Homemakers is just for women who don’t work outside the home or for women who are retired; neither is true. Anybody of any age or sex can join.
“We need more young people to realize that they can join us,” Janning says.
An annual membership to the Hendricks County Extension Homemakers is just $15. If you’re interested in becoming a member or to learn more, call 317-745-9260 and ask for Lisa or Beth.