May 7, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

The 18-foot trailer parked outside the Nelson County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is stacked full of clothing.

The clothing for newborns through size 2T is on the way to Lame Deer Indian Reservation in Montana thanks to an effort by the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association.

The statewide project is the brainchild of Linda Wells, International KEHA chair and Nelson County resident.

“When I was asked to run for KEHA International Chairman, I said OK but I wanted to pick the area we would work in,” Wells said. “I was tired of our money going out of the states and Native Americans have a very special place in my heart.”

Wells said the three-year goal is to aid children and families with this year’s goal being to clothe a child. Next year, they will be collecting blankets.  The plans for the third year of her term are yet to be determined.

Clothe-a-Child is a program of the National Volunteer Outreach Network Inc., of which KEHA is a member.  The items will be taken to a medical clinic and to St. Labre Indian Catholic School for distribution. Having the items at the clinic is an effort to try to encourage mothers to bring their children in for well baby checkups.

The goal was to gather one item from the more than 1,100 clubs in the state, but the end result was far and away above that. The items number more than 16,000.

“We’ve gotten probably 300 packages of diapers,” Wells said. “It’s just phenomenal the things that we’ve received. We’ve gotten beautiful crocheted afghans, knitted blankets – we’ve gotten a little bit of everything.”

Mabel Harned, president of the KEHA, said she was amazed by the amount of items collected by the Homemakers.

“I never saw so much enthusiasm from Homemakers for a project,” she said. “I think it is because we have such a special feeling for babies and young children.”

Harned, also a Nelson County resident, said she hopes to go to Montana in 2005 and visit Lame Deer.

“That is our last objective,” she said.

 For their efforts on this project, the Nelson County Homemakers Association received first place honors in the International/Global County Project Award given during the recent KEHA annual meeting.

In Nelson County, more than 500 items were collected through a program called A Native American Gathering. Admission to the gathering was an item of clothing.

The idea for the program came from Judy Cederholm, Lincoln Trail Area/Nelson County International chairman.

“We wanted to do something really neat,” she said. “I wanted to make it meaningful for our Homemakers, so we came up with an idea of a baby shower and invited the whole county in as well as involved some home schooled children.”

The program included a Native American food and herb tea tasting and a demonstration on cultural diversity entitled “Native American Soft Walk” present by Judy Creech, Nelson

County 4-H program assistant.  A video on Lame Deer and St. Labre also was part of the activities.

Lucille Chesser, Nelson County Homemakers president, said the program far exceeded her expectations.

“When the outpouring came, we didn’t know where to sit the people,” she said. “We just couldn’t comprehend it was going to turn out like this.”

Carolyn Goodman, Nelson County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, said it is exciting to see how volunteer leadership can come up with ideas and then put legs to those ideas.

“We had three goals: to clothe a child, to educate Homemakers and nonmembers about Native American culture, practices and beliefs and to educate participants about cultural diversity,” she said. “We really feel like we did that.”

Wells said the Extension staff also plays an important role in ensuring the success of Homemaker programs.

“I don’t think we would have been able to do any of this without Extension,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have the staff that we have here in Nelson County. They are always willing and able to do anything we come in and ask them to do.”


Carolyn Goodman, 502-348-9204