Last updated: June 23. 2014 12:30PM - 202 Views
Theresa Howard Extension News

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The organization of thriving communities is characterized by the mobilization of its volunteers.

For the past 100 years, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has been successful in recruiting, developing and retaining high quality volunteers of all ages.

In 1914, the first home demonstration agents were hired to work with girl’s canning clubs and to teach food preservation to families. These first agents worked temporary during the summer months and laid the foundation for today’s Family and Consumer Sciences Extension programs. As home demonstration agents were hired full time beginning in 1915, home demonstration clubs began to emerge in Kentucky. Volunteer leaders have played an important role in Extension since these early days.

In 1932, a group of county home demonstration clubs formed a state organization now known as the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association. The group was formed with the intent to unify and strengthen the efforts of Homemakers in Kentucky and to develop their leadership potential.

For more than 80 years, the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association has provided continual and consistent volunteer service within the organization and in communities throughout the Commonwealth. KEHA members annually provide more than 500,000 volunteer hours for Extension activities and in their communities, often performing tasks and taking on roles that provide a savings of time and dollars for local governments.

Spurred by the diagnosis of one of their own, KEHA members have donated more than $1.2 million dollars to the UK Ovarian Cancer Research Program since 1977 to help save the lives of Kentucky women every day. They have also encouraged women they know to be screened for ovarian cancer, a free service at UK funded by their donations. Some even make it a group outing taking Extension vehicles full of women to Lexington.

In addition to local and statewide projects, the reach of KEHA members extends beyond the United States. As a member of the Associated Country Women of the World since 1936, KEHA annually contributes funds through ACWW to support projects in developing countries that empower families and improve health. Since 2008, KEHA has provided financial support and resources for the Kentucky Academy, a kindergarten in the village of Adjeikrom in Ghana. KEHA efforts have provided improved building facilities, construction of a kitchen and dining pavilion and a new water supply.

Trained and empowered volunteers are vital to the success of community organizations like KEHA. To address the ever-growing need for volunteers, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service developed the “Kentucky Extension Leadership Development” curriculum. This curriculum provides a series of lessons for a facilitator to use to identify, mobilize and retain volunteers.

The lessons develop core leadership skills in participants by helping them understand the differences in learning styles, generations and motivations, all while identifying their own leadership potential. This curriculum has been used with countless Extension groups, as well as county leadership groups, Chambers of Commerce and more.

When a community has developed, experienced and dedicated volunteers, it is able to efficiently complete projects, as well as gather innovative ideas on how to unify and expand. When looking for high quality, dedicated volunteers of all ages, one rarely has to look farther than their local county Cooperative Extension Service.

To learn more about Harlan County Extension Homemakers, stop by the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service office, located at 519 South Main Street, Harlan, or call 573-4464.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

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