Extension and Community Association: A century of service

Dec. 21, 2013 @ 04:35 PM

Counties across the state owe much of their success today to the women who participated in Extension “Home Demonstration Club work.”

Since 1913, Extension and Community Association members have worked to improve the well-being of families and their communities through education and community involvement. Their legacy to agriculture, family and their communities has helped shape the state we live in today.

In Durham County, Extension and Community Association (ECA) members, formerly referred to as extension homemakers, used their influence in 1914 to secure a home demonstration agent for our county. Working with the “home demonstration agent,” extension homemakers established Home Demonstration clubs and led classes teaching local families about meal preparation and healthy eating, home decor, financial management and sewing and clothing construction. During both world wars they canned thousands of jars of produce to help feed U.S. troops.

Additionally, homemakers grew “Victory Gardens, sold war bonds and marketed farm-fresh produce at the Durham County Curb Market, the precursor to today’s downtown Farmer’s Market.   In fact, the Durham Curb Market helped to sustain Durham County family farms during the depression years of the 1930s. Extension homemakers assisted less fortunate families during the Depression, distributing almost 3,000,000 freshly canned goods in their respective communities. Our present-day agricultural building that houses the Cooperative Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation Services is the result of extension homemakers rallying county commissioners for a permanent building to house the weekly curb market.

Today, members now referred to as the Extension and Community Association or ECA continue to partner with the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) program to deliver timely and relevant educational programs to Durham County families.  Durham ECA members are supportive of families who are coping and caring for aging and incapacitated parents and/or other family members in crisis. 

Some of the educational and community service efforts ECA members are presently pursuing involve constructing fidget aprons, mammary pillows and rag dolls that are distributed routinely to Durham County caregivers who care for family members suffering from Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer or childhood diseases.  They support Durham 4-H and youth by presenting life skills classes for the Durham 4-H Summer Fun series; promote and sponsor Extension health and nutrition educational objectives by offering public programs that highlight healthy living habits.

The year 2013 has been for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and for North Carolina families.  This is the centennial founding year of the Extension and Community Association (ECA).

To honor the substantial contributions of ECA in Durham County during the last century, the Cooperative Extension Service held a Centennial Celebration on Dec. 10, recognizing members who continue to serve Durham families by presenting researched-based knowledge designed to improve the quality of life in their individual communities.  

Durham County ECA is the fundamental volunteer organization of the Durham County Cooperative Extension Service for Family and Consumer Sciences programming. Their concurrent and applicable educational programs are designed to promote family welfare benefits for all Durham residents.  To join this vital community organization or form your own local ECA club, contact Deborah McGiffin, family and consumer sciences agent with the Durham County Cooperative Extension Service at 919-560-0521 or at deborah_mcgiffin@ncsu.edu.