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Mountain View Homemakers: They’re not Betty Crocker

Mountain View Homemakers is a local group that has been active in Pagosa Springs since 1963, and has a much wider scope than the name implies. These ladies are not our mothers of the 1940s and 1950s. They range in age from women with young children or teenagers, to those in their 80s. They are involved in many community activities, and they do not spend their waking hours on housecleaning details. In other words, they are not Betty Crocker!

As with most Pagosa groups, however, there is food involved, and these ladies are wonderful cooks. They meet on the second Thursday of each month at 11:30 a.m. at the County Extension Building, and the event always begins with a potluck lunch (this is one of those times you skimp on breakfast if you are at all watching your weight), followed by a short business meeting. The early afternoon is devoted to whatever project has been selected for that month.

Vice president Carol Fulenwider (aka Denny Rose in the art community) reminded me of the club’s purpose — “To make the lives of our families and our community more livable.”

Club members engage dynamic local speakers, select local non-profit organizations that they can assist, and are always looking for ways to educate themselves and their community, to make this a better place to live for all of us. A glimpse of the group’s planned activities for 2010 reflects this purpose.

In January the afternoon’s theme was “Emergency Preparedness is the Key.” Whether it be preparation for a power outage, a winter blizzard (here, in Pagosa?), or perhaps a medical emergency that requires immediate attention before 911 response can arrive, the ladies learned about ways to handle such situations. They also learned what local plans are in place for emergencies, what provisions might best be kept on hand, and who to contact for special situations.

In February, co–vice presidents Cathy Rutherford and Carol Fulenwider, presented the group with a slate of 16 local nonprofits to consider helping, this year and beyond. They explained a bit about the scope and purpose of each organization. This is an impressive list, and shows a clear picture of the commitment by this group to help our community. These are entities you are all familiar with.

After the meeting, the ladies visited one of the places they provide assistance to, The Pregnancy Support Center.

This brings us to the March program. As seen in the accompanying photo, club members brought sewing machines, ironing boards, fabric, pillow stuffing and sewing supplies to the meeting. In one afternoon, they made over two dozen fleece blankets and about 40 small pillows. These have been distributed to the Pregnancy Support Center as well as to the Hospice team and Mercy Health Foundation.

What is next for the ladies? In April they will learn about the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership.

On the agenda for May is the annual “Hope in a Bag Project.” What is this? Come to the meeting and find out.

Two special excursions and the “one and only” fund-raiser for the club will take place over the summer. A Chimney Rock tour has been arranged for June, and in July local “auctioneer extraordinaire” Bill Nobles will assist with the big fund-raiser auction. Each member brings an auction item for either the live or silent auction. Guests are invited to attend, and there are some fun and amazing items up for bid. With talented artists, quilters, cooks and gardeners among the membership, some stunning handmade items will be among the items up for bid. Proceeds from this event are used to help the earlier mentioned local non-profit groups.

The ladies will be on the road in August for a day-trip to Creede. If you think this might interest you, be sure to come to the April meeting, since this is when the reservation must be made and paid for to make sure everyone has a seat for the Creede Repertory Theater performance. Members will also be volunteering in a variety of capacities at the 2010 Archuleta County Fair in August.

In September, the ladies will return to regular meetings at the Extension Building when the speakers, Ed Toner and his sister, longtime club member Peggy Case, will entertain the group with stories about early days in Pagosa Springs. After this program, attention will turn to Back-to-School food boxes.

Do you have some creative interests? In October you can come to a jewelry making session. President Mary Webb will share her artistic talents and direction for this meeting. There is also talk of having Mary (and perhaps a few of her students) offer a repeat of a well-received 2009 card-making class. All participants will share ideas and materials for this session. This is a great opportunity to find out what items you have around the house that can be incorporated into some special holiday greetings as an alternative to purchasing expensive greeting cards.

Everyone is aware of the challenges in the medical arena these days. In November, the group will hear from Brad Cochennet from our local hospital about some of the challenges, as well as the services of our Upper San Juan Health Service District. At this meeting, boxes will also be available for members to donate toiletries and other items that will help both the Pregnancy Support Center and Victims Assistance. Holiday Boxes (come and find out) will also be on the agenda.

The year will wrap up with the annual Christmas Party. This time, the potluck will truly be a “Holiday Feast,” followed by the annual holiday gift exchange/Chinese auction. You know the drill — choose and open a wonderful gift only to have it taken away by some “friendly” club member. Last year, as a new member, no one took pity on me. First I had the beautiful scarf stolen from me, then a fabulous gift basket. But I can’t feel sorry for myself, as I ended up with an amazing handmade quilted table piece created and donated by a talented quilter in the group.

Club historian Shirley Snyder has spent a lot of time compiling and updating a series of scrapbooks about the Homemakers. These are kept at Ruby Sisson Library. I spent an afternoon looking at them and found that they are truly a picture of aspects of life here in Pagosa Springs, dating from 1963. The club has grown in size and in the scope of its activities and projects, but the purpose and commitment of the organization was obvious from the beginning. Ask one of the librarians at the circulation desk to open the cabinet and let you browse through these scrapbooks. They are fascinating.

The earliest scrapbook I came across was “A History of Mountain View Homemakers,” as related to Wilma Morrison by Virginia Kleckner. A bit of this follows:

“Virginia Kleckner was one of the first members of the Club when it was organized in 1963. They published their first Year Book in 1964. Meetings were held at the Court House. Lillian Gibson was the Home Economics teacher, and had the necessary credentials to organize an Extension Club. Members at that time were Mary Caywood, Ruby Radcliff, Elaine Gibson, Virginia Kleckner, Lillian Gibson and two others. They named the club ‘Mt. View Home Demonstration Extension Club’ (and operated as an Extension Club for twenty years.)

“Demands of the State Extension Program became excessive and costs were raised such that in 1984 the club withdrew its affiliation. At this time it became the Mt. View Homemakers Club and in 1985 has an average attendance of 8-10 of the 15 members.”

Typical projects from those times included candle making, making a purse, Christmas corsages, drying flowers, knitting, embroidery and crochet. In fact, the Homemakers sponsored a knitting and crochet contest at the 1984 county fair. They also offered handcrafted items for sale at the Fair for a few years.

How many of you remember when your mothers, or perhaps yourself, were members of an Extension Club? I certainly remember those 20 ladies in my mother’s group and how they were a very close-knit and supportive group of friends over the years. (They also broke away from the Extension Club umbrella in the early 1980s.) It is my understanding that there may be only one active Extension Club in the United States now. But there must be hundreds of groups like the Mountain View Homemakers scattered across the country.

I also ran across a statement about the group in one of these scrapbooks that truly sums up this organization: “Mountain View Homemakers represent the spirit of women down through the ages. They make homes out of houses, but these women understand that home means not only their home, but also the community they live and work in. Their talents such as leadership abilities, political involvement, organizational skills, teaching, singing, childcare, cooking, arts and crafts, represent homemaking traditions that they share to create a better community.”

All women are invited to join Homemakers. Again, the meetings are at the County Extension Building the second Thursday of each month, at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be on April 8. First-timers/guests are not expected to bring a potluck item, and there will be table service available for you. Just come and enjoy yourself and find out more about the club.

If you have questions or would like further information, Mary Webb would love to visit with you. Her phone number is 731-1288. If Mary is not at home you can leave a message and she will return your call.