Home Study groups gather again
COVID put a stop to much of the gathering that these ladies have been a part of for decades. They were thrilled to come together as a group with nearly 60 strong.
WADENA — It's hard to put a stop to friendships that have been forged over food, conversations and learning for decades. The Wadena County Home Study groups are proof of the unbroken bonds that have continued since the beginning of these groups over 80 years ago.
The Home Study Groups were formed as an arm of the county extension office in August 1938 with Mrs. Carl Goedel serving as the first president, according to her daughter and current member Carol Spencer. COVID put a stop to much of the gathering for the last two years, but the clubs came out in force to a gathering April 28 at the Wadena VFW.
The groups grew over time and at one point included one club for each of the counties 15 townships. There are now 12 clubs throughout Wadena County that continue to meet. Each club tries to be only so large because these gatherings are often taking place in the living room of club members.
On April 28, they all met, some 54 members. They supped tea and coffee in fine china, showed off exuberant hats that would be the envy of the Kentucky Derby fans. They laughed and enjoyed fine baked items while listening to the toe-tapping polka playing of local legend Eric Roggenkamp.
Their mission is to promote neighborliness. They are non-political and religion is not to be discussed. The club is a place of learning new skills and according to bylaws, they were to "eliminate gossip."
The Home Study Group Creed states:
"As an Extension Home Study Group member I will strive to promote a better way of life for my family, my neighbor and myself through continuing education, community service and support to each other.
I believe it is my privilege and responsibility to serve to the best of my ability and to continue to improve myself while helping others to develop to their full potential.
May I always be willing to accept the challenges of the day by building on the strengths of the past and looking with optimism to the future."
New Traditions club councilor Carol Spencer shared that dues were 50 cents in those early days and there was a $1 fine for providing more than a simple spread of appetizers with coffee. She's now been a member since the 1970s and started out in the Suburbanites club.
The clubs are more than a good place to visit. Planned lessons were a key part and at first were prepared by the county extension. Spencer shared that in 1940, the lesson was focused on giving a bath to a patient in bed. During the war, the talk was on artificial breathing. In more recent years, the club members prepare the plans as funding is no longer available from the county extension offices. CPR is a planned lesson this season.
"In addition to a lesson, we also have a craft that we do," Spencer said. Many clubs compete at the Wadena County Fair each year, too. The club with the most winnings can win $1.
"The clubs were the social activity of the neighborhood," Spencer explained. In a time where social media and viruses have pushed us to isolation, this group continues to promote togetherness. It's proven to be a source of joy and education for these ladies.
While the Home Study Groups have been a long tradition here in Wadena County, Mary Jorgenson, Wadena, explained that the tradition of the tea party extends all the way back to the 18th century. This tea party is one way to keep all 12 clubs connected.
"We learn and we have fun," Jorgenson said.
And as this reporter to confirm, not a word of gossip was heard.
If you are interested in being a part of one of these groups, call President Rocky Reese at 218-639-9216 to find out more.