LEON — Helen Lyons, president of the Leon Community Educational Outreach Service, recently celebrated another milestone. After being president of the county council and other offices, Helen celebrated her 50th year of membership.
Helen had been a native of Colorado when she married Arlan Lyons of Leon. Helen and Arlan became the parents of two children, and lived on the family farm on Eight Mile Road near Leon. Her mother-in-law, Josephine Lyons, a well-known elementary teacher, encouraged her to become a member of a large group of women, the Leon Extension Homemakers that met one evening a month.
Helen became a member in 1971. The mission and purpose of the organization was to strengthen families, to promote life-long learning, leadership and community involvement.
Faye Thomas was the president of the 27-member group. Mrs. Vicki Keefer was the West Virginia University Home Economic Agent for Mason County. Then the dues for the club were $1.25 per year.
In 1975, Lydia Smith and Sceva Stewart nominated Helen for the presidency of the Leon Club. At that time there were 33 members and the dues were still $1.25. Helen served for six years and the club continued to grow.
Helen served on several educational committees. The Leon club members served as partners in education with the Leon Elementary School with the awarding of scholarships for students. In addition to the participation for Leon School, members of the CEOS assist the county in the Youth Expo.
The club members joined with the community in building the Leon Town Hall. The project was accomplished without government money.
Individuals in the community and the members of the homemakers raised the funds.
Members of the Leon club helped with the local Leon Volunteer Fire Department and trained to be emergency medical technicians for the Mountain Flower EMS.
Highlights of the Extension Homemakers were when women in the county took bus tours. Helen was able to tour the New England states. She described the trip as memorable and she recalls yet the places they visited.
In 1983-84, Helen again was the president of the Leon Club. The dues for the club membership were $2.50. In 1985, she was elected as the Mason County Extension Homemaker’s Council President. At that time there were 14 clubs in Mason County. At her first meeting as council president, she was surprised to learn the WVU Homemakers Extension Agent was resigning and was moving to Virginia with her husband — leaving Helen to work with Agriculture Agent Carl Cook and 4-H leader Tracy Waugh. It became a team effort — different than when there was a Homemaker’s Agent, but Helen was up to the task.
In 1988-89 Helen was a member of the West Virginia International Extension Homemakers Committee. As she worked with the state committee, she brought back information for the county club members. She has filled all four chairs on the club and county levels during her 50 years with the extension family. She has attended many state events at Jackson’s Mill. Each year programs are developed and brought back to the county for the purpose of education, leadership development and the strengthening of families.
In 1992 the county documented and photographed vintage quits made by county women. The project was completed with a book of the documentation and photographs. The annual quilt show has grown in popularity. Each Fall at the West Virginia Farm Museum, quilts are gathered for display. Prizes are awarded for the most popular works of art.
The annual Homemade Crafts and Art Exhibits were held at the National Guard Armory. Craftsmen from throughout the county display and sell their products. Prior to the pandemic, the show and sale was visited by several hundred patrons. Craftsmen had a venue to display and sell their hard work. With the sale of crafts and products, many in the area have added to their families’ income. Helen served faithfully on the organization of the event. She has helped younger members learn how to lead.
In 2014, Helen served as the Mason County Folk Festival Belle at Glenville. This was a memorable occasion for her and the other Belles from across the state. She recommends the experience for women over 70 who live in the county to consider serving as a Belle when asked.
In December 2019, the Leon Club celebrated a milestone that was recognized by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture director. It was 90 years for the Leon women and men who had made up the Farm Women’s Club’s organization, an organization whose goals and mission had not been much different than today’s CEOS and had stood the test of a changing world of wars and depressions — good times and bad.
During the 2020 pandemic, she and members of the Leon club have helped with the distribution of food to children in need, school supplies, and donated to the Point Pleasant Homeless Shelter.
As Helen and her club members celebrate 50 years of her serving the community, she recalls many good times. She considers the club her extension family. And at no time were the friendships more evident than when she experienced her home of 50 years being heavily damaged by a house fire in 2019.
Memories: It was on September 11, 2001 when the Leon CEOS Club hosted the county council meeting. Helen remembered when the meeting concluded the club and county members returned to their homes to the news that our country had been attacked. America was a different place for a time. Just as in 1929 when the club originated to meet the needs of the Leon and Mason County families, the Community Educational Outreach Service continues to meet goals set a long time ago — yet it seems like not so long ago.
Helen has served for 50 years the CEOS and she invites women and men throughout the area to become part of a worthwhile organization.
Submitted by Alice Click, Mason County CEOS county council president.