For more than 80 years, members of the Oklahoma Home and Community Education group have gathered yearly to exchange ideas, network with one another and generally just have a good time at the organization's annual state meeting. In that aspect, things have not changed much.

However, OHCE members continue to make a big difference and invoke change in their local communities, with some clubs serving their area for 100 years or more, even before there was an official state organization.

Members met recently in Oklahoma City to take part in the 83rd OHCE Annual Meeting. Those attending from Pottawatomie County include Leslye Owen, Darline Ruyle, Angela Hudson, Mary Roberts, Jennifer Duncan, Viola Allen and Gloria Crosby. There were 274 attendees this year, including 42 first-timers. This year's state meeting theme was "Planting the Seeds of OHCE".

Debbie Mote, OHCE immediate past-president, said she is proud of all the members of OHCE because they are making a difference across Oklahoma.

"I think OHCE is important to communities because we work to strengthen families and individuals," Mote said. "We offer educational resources, give scholarship and sponsor projects to benefit the communities."

Providing members with tools needed in their local counties is one reason bringing the organization together for the state meeting is important. Mote said club members are the voice of their local communities.

A special awards presentation took place to recognize individual members and clubs for their hard work over the past year. Those winning awards from Pottawatomie County include:

Outstanding Project of the Year -The Stocking Project, MOMS Group-Angela Hudson

(Also, 1st Place Healthy Living Award)

1st Place Group Leadership Project -Master Volunteer Program, MOMS Group-Angela Hudson

2nd Place Cultural Enrichment Project - No Cluck about it, It's chicken Scratch Embroidery,

MOMS Group-Angela Hudson

3rd Place County Leadership Project - Lap Robes a Plenty, Pottawatomie County-Leslye Owen

4th Place Award Submission - 17 project award books submitted by Pottawatomie County

Special member awards are presented from each of the four OHCE Districts.  Mary Roberts from Pottawatomie County represented the Southeast District for OHCE Member of the Year.

The state meeting also provides an opportunity to recognize those who have been members for 50, 60 and 70 years, as well as clubs that have been organized for 50 or more years. Winona Seikel an OHCE 60 year member and Viola Allen an OHCE member for 50 years were both recognized from Pottawatomie County.  The Cheerful Workers group from the McLoud area was recognized for being an organized club for 95 years.

Because OHCE members are continually looking for opportunities to learn new things, they were able to choose from a variety of educational workshops in which to attend. Topics included quilting, crafting with recycled items, landscaping, Swedish weaving, aging, history of buttons, healthy lifestyles, essential oils, beekeeping and more. The group also selected its 2018-2019 officers.

Leslye Owen, newly installed State OHCE president from Pottawatomie County Dale group, has been an active member of the group since 2001 and said it is important to continue to grow the organization.

"My main goal is to reach out to potential new members in new ways. Our communities are changing, becoming less rural and more urban," Owen said. "This means we need to change the way we share OHCE with potential members. Also, people's needs and desires have changed, too."

She said she also wants to bring the OHCE board to the members by visiting as many counties as possible over the next two years.

"I want to be visible. I'm not the president for me, I'm president for OHCE," she said. "I love this organization and the things the members do for our communities. We make a difference with everything we do. We touch lives in more ways than we can measure, and I want the world to know what I know."