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Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council members gather for state meeting in North Little Rock


NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Clad in their signature red t-shirts, hundreds of members of the state’s largest volunteer organization, Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council, gathered at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock for their state meeting June 4-6.
The annual meeting brings together members from more than 300 EHC clubs throughout the state for educational and creative skills classes, committee meetings and the installation of new officers. Across the three days, members learned about cooking with herbs, how diet affects dementia, severe weather watching and more.
John Anderson, senior associate vice president of extension for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, welcomed EHC members on the first day of the meeting.
“I like to point out that the mission of the Cooperative Extension Service is ‘to strengthen agriculture, communities and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices,’” Anderson said. “If you think about the first part of that mission statement – we strengthen agriculture, communities and families – another way to state that goal is we make the places we live better. We invest in our homes and families to improve quality of life. Nobody contributes more to that in extension than our major volunteer organizations, including EHC.”
Anderson thanked members for the organization’s long history of serving Arkansas communities. Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council was first established in 1912 by Emma Archer, a home demonstration agent who organized the state’s first girls’ canning club in Mabelvale. This predates the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which formally established the extension service.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of great extension professionals in this room, our county agents and our directors, and the leadership they provide to these efforts is invaluable,” Anderson said. “But the work gets done through our volunteers. To mobilize volunteers to meet local needs is really inspiring and really encouraging, and this group has been a part of that since before extension was established. I just want to commend you for that.”
Nina Roofe, assistant vice president of family and consumer sciences for the Division of Agriculture, said EHC plays a significant role in volunteer efforts in the state.
“Today, EHC is still this vibrant organization that’s in the forefront of volunteerism,” Roofe said. “When we did our recent strategic planning, Arkansas EHC was the biggest part of that stakeholder engagement. That was you. The one single biggest group was you.
“You’re still on the forefront of providing input into improving lives for individuals, families and communities for things like nutrition, health, financial management,” Roofe said. “You bring your expertise, you bring your time, you bring your willingness to serve in your communities. And we couldn’t do the work we do without you. You give us your hands, and your feet, and what I dare say is your most valuable resource, which is time. If we didn’t have you, we couldn’t do all the work that we do.”
EHC Cares about mental health awareness

Local EHC clubs work on different service projects in their communities, and the EHC organization also has a statewide service project. Since 2022, the statewide project, EHC Cares, has focused on spreading mental health awareness.
At the state meeting, Dot Hart, newly elected Arkansas EHC president-elect and former chair of the statewide project, gave an update on EHC Cares and what she hopes to accomplish over the next two years.
“Our goal is to be ‘boots on the ground’ and to help direct people to mental health resources,” Hart said. “We want to do this by getting together in the community and partnering with people.”
Hart said she recently learned that the University of Arkansas at Monticello partners with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on a walk to raise awareness about mental health, a model that EHC clubs could follow.
“Organizations like that are out there, and I know that they would welcome our help,” she said. “It’s all about getting that information out to folks. Let’s be impactful.”
Though she will step down as chair of the statewide project, Hart said she will remain committed to the cause because the issue of mental health is a personal one. When Hart’s granddaughter was in high school, she attempted suicide. Her granddaughter has since traveled with Hart to different EHC club meetings to share her story, which has connected with many.
“People will pull me aside and they’ll have tears in their eyes, and they’re sharing their stories with me,” Hart said. “We all go through something. We all have children, friends, family members who have been affected by this — that’s just how our world is today. But we can advocate, and we can be the voice.”
Hart said her granddaughter recently moved to Kentucky, where she founded her own EHC club. Her granddaughter’s experience inspired Hart to start conversations about mental health and “remove the stigma.”
“I think we put too many expectations on our children, and we didn’t realize what COVID has done to a lot of them,” she said. “Our world has changed, and we’ve had so much ugliness and division, we don’t work together and consider each other. It’s not just our children, it’s our veterans and our seniors, people in our communities. We get so busy, and everybody focuses on the ‘me.’ A potential new slogan for our EHC Cares t-shirt says, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about we.’”