Groups open to new members
By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
What began in the early 1970s as an outreach of the Minnesota Extension Service continues now as four independent homemakers groups gathering in Morrison and Crow Wing counties to share and learn new things together.
“There used to be six groups, but there are four now,” said Sunshine group member Colleen LeBlanc. “Even though members have moved away or have job commitments, many of the original members are still around.”
LeBlanc joined the group as a new mom but later moved away for a career. When she retired and moved back to the area, she reconnected with her old friends.
“We really enjoy getting together,” she said.
The four groups — Sunshine, Mississippi Go-getters, Lindy Ladies and Dove — meet monthly. The groups vary in size from seven to 22 members.
“Each group is unique — each has its own personality and is organized differently,” LeBlanc said.
Some of the groups have a program planned ahead for the year, while others just go month by month. Twice a year, all of the groups get together for a luncheon and special program.
For the fall luncheon, Morrison County Deputy Sheriff Beth Schmidt talked about her experiences as a woman in law enforcement.
Some activities have included: learning about coin collecting, touring local businesses, visiting an Amish furniture-making farm, seeing a sheep farm which doubled as a bed and breakfast and attending the “Geritol Frolics” in Brainerd.
There are also things to be learned to update homemaking skills. Recently, the women were hearing about canning tomatoes and were told to add lemon.
“One of the older women said she never used to have to do that, and wondered why,” LeBlanc said. “Well, the acidity has been bred out of tomatoes so some lemon juice needs to be added for the canning to be successful.
Sandy Katzenmeyer’s favorite activity was at a summer picnic when the group members had prepared unique hats beforehand with surplus Styrofoam discs that Dodie Colombe had given out.
“We took it home and built a hat,” Katzenmeyer said. “Some even dressed to match their creation. It was tons of fun — everybody had a blast.”
At most Sunshine meetings, there is an fundraising auction. “We bring whatever we can to auction to the other members,” said Helen Hamrick. “That’s how we make money for the club. It’s the most fun fundraising experience I’ve ever had — no pain.”
People bring eggs, produce, baked and canned goods, embroidery, quilting and painting. There are no strict rules.
Group members contribute to local charities such as the food shelves in both Pierz and Little Falls.
“We pass around an envelope every month to give to the Boys and Girls Club,” Hamrick said.
In the past, they have made stocking caps for the military with donated fleece. They occasionally do collection drives for items to donate to the Boys and Girls Club.
The groups welcome new members and would also be willing to help if anyone would like to start a new group.
“We have resources to share and can answer questions for new groups,” Le-
“The most meaningful part of this has been seeing the other ladies, visiting with them,” Hamrick said.
“Connecting with friends we’ve made over the years, sharing our problems and triumphs, sorrows and joy and knowledge — that’s what means the most,” said Katzenmeyer.
There is also a pool of wisdom that can be shared when friends gather. “Someone was very frustrated at not being able to get a menu item to turn out right,” LeBlanc said. “But when she shared that, several of the members made suggestions at the things she might check to make it right.”
At a recent meeting, one of the members mentioned that they had been in the hospital. “She was told to please let the group know, because we care about one another,” LeBlanc said. “It’s about community.”
For more information, contact Ellen Akotchik at (320) 632-3338 or Colleen LeBlanc at (218) 828-6233.