Louisiana Volunteers for Family & Community, Inc. is a statewide organization working in partnership with the LSU AgCenter to strengthen Louisiana families and the communities in which they live. Originally part of a national organization formed in 1936, the Louisiana organization began as home demonstration clubs in the early 1900s. Acadia parish had some of the first organized clubs in 1921. The adult clubs evolved from seeing the interest parents had in their children’s 4-H experiences. 4-H'ers were learning many skills that improved farm production or household efficiency. In the early 1930s, Miss Ellen LeNoir, a home economics agent from Louisiana, chaired the national committee that created the extension homemakers organization. Today, LVFC still provides scholarships in her name to Louisiana graduate students in agriculture or human ecology. Mrs. R.T. Douglas from Louisiana was elected the first secretary of the new association in 1936.
At that time Louisiana and most of the country were rural. The clubs provided a social outlet for women who were responsible for running the household and raising the children. As important as the social aspect was, the real emphasis was on improving the lives of families and communities. This was done by including educational programs at each club meeting and through special projects. The early organization campaigned to bring hot lunches into schools, bookmobiles for rural areas, funding for public health services and numerous other community needs. Skills learned through club lessons were critical to helping families make ends meet. Kitchen gardens along with canning produce and meats butchered on the farm fed their families. Material from feed bags was used for clothing, curtains, pillowcases and kitchen towels. Surplus cotton and/or Spanish moss were used to make mattresses. Women shared ideas for using surplus commodities or how to make due without.
A look at club projects is a peek into history. Early programs introduced rural families to the frightening monster called electricity. Club lessons and projects during the 30s helped families cope during the Depression. Bandage rolling was a reason to gather during the war years. Stay-at-home mothers in the 50s found extension clubs to be a way to make friends, while women entering the workforce in the 70s learned how to adjust to their dual roles.
Today’s clubs continue the original intent of combining social events with learning how to improve our families and communities. LVFC members can be found in workshops on the coast to learn about current coastal issues or at the Capitol to study legislation. They are responsible for hundreds of books given to new parents and various literacy programs. Members can be found working at health fairs, various charity race/walks and local special events. Despite the devastating impact of the hurricanes on its own membership, LVFC members donated thousands of hours of volunteer time and many other resources to meet immediate needs and now the rebuilding efforts. LVFC was the first organization to make a formal donation to the Louisiana House, a research and educational model home on the LSU campus. The home is an important part of Louisiana’s sustainable building program.
Nearly 350 members can be found across the state. Membership is open to anyone interested in making a difference in families and communities.
The heart of LFVC is the local club. Most clubs meet monthly and include an educational program as part of their meeting. Lesson information comes from the parish extension agent or from LVFC state programs.
Local clubs belong to a parish council. The parish council coordinates activities of the local clubs and parish-wide activities.
Each parish is part of an area and joins with other parishes for regional activities. Each area serves as host for the state convention once every 5 years. An area director is responsible for the area activities and represents the area on the state board.
The state board coordinates all statewide activities, including the convention, mini colleges, legislative days and other educational opportunities. State educational chairmen make available ideas for club lessons and serve as a resource for parish and club officers.
Twelve Louisiana parishes have at least one LVFC club. Members can join the club closest to them and don’t have to live in the same parish. To find or start a club in your area, contact the nearest LSU AgCenter office.