LEON — The West Virginia State Department of Agriculture honored the Leon Community Education Outreach Services (CEOS) at its 90th anniversary observance held at the Leon Town Hall last week.
Buddy Davidson represented Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt. The commissioner was in Washington, D.C. representing the state’s farmers as well as industries on pending Congressional legislation.
Davidson congratulated Leon Club President Helen Lyons, and members for their many accomplishments and contributions in improving their own lives and those of families in the community.
The story began in the winter of 1922 when the first Rural Life Conferences were held in communities in Mason County. Educators and lecturers from the State Department of Agriculture were present then to give help and information to the farmers and the farm women of the area.
A second conference was held in 1928 and it was at this time that Leon women determined they needed a club representing their side of the Kanawha to address such projects as a community health survey.
The date was Friday, Dec. 6, 1929, and Effie Parsons Casto became the first president and Cora Sommer was the vice president of the Farm Women’s Club.
The women of the Leon club sponsored a 4-H Club and a health clinic for 74 children that was followed by a dinner. In July 1934, the club sponsored the first Bible school in Leon. As the years passed, the club members were of assistance to the town council as they sought financial aid for a water system.
Each year the club members contributed to the Leon School. They supported the school bond that built the present Leon Elementary.
The Department of Agriculture representative, Davidson stated he found it remarkable that during the Great Depression, the club purchased kerosene for the lights at the Leon School and donated books for the school library. They furnished clothing for needy children so that they could attend school.
Throughout the years, the club members helped build a Town Hall after the old one had burned. The building continues to be used for the community events, CEOS, and especially 4-H. This Town Hall was constructed without government funding. The club members were awarded a “Community Betterment Award” in 1972 from the West Virginia State Chamber of Commerce.
A member, Gladys Thomas, donated land for the fire department. Members of the Leon CEOS trained and became volunteers for the fire department as well as volunteers for the Mountain Flower non-profit Emergency Medical Service. The members participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program and participated in the maintenance of the Leon Cemetery. Carrie Beaver, a 65-year member and her family were active with this project.
In earlier years, “Sewing Workshops” were held to assist the younger members with the skills to construct clothing for their families.
During the anniversary celebration, many scrapbooks of the history of the Leon club were displayed. Vicki Keefer, who was a former WVU Extension Agent serving Mason County, was present at Leon’s celebration. She began her service to the Home Demonstration Club in 1969 and chartered new clubs. In a news story from one of the history books, Keefer explained that the organization provided information to meet the needs of women in the county and state, as well as throughout the nation. This Mason County co-operative extension service is under the direction of the West Virginia University.
Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley read a proclamation on behalf of the county. Rodney Wallbrown, a retired educator and agent, was a guest along with Leon Mayor Bruce Riffle. Clinedda Austin, county president and state vice-president attended. Austin’s mother, Ann Ervin, a Pioneer president, had served also as a county president.
A former club president, Mary Priddy Casto, and DiAnne Buxton Buck, a former officer, attended. Natalie Morgan, who served faithfully both the Leon Club and county as president, continues to actively participate. Morgan’s mother, Sceva Stewart, served as a charter member and then served as a president.
In keeping with the Depression years’ theme, beans and bistro potato soup and cornbread were served. There were three mills in the town of Leon that ground corn into meal. A photo of the Buxton’s Mill was displayed on the bulletin boards along with photos of many of the former members. Poinsettias adorned the tables.
The Leon club’s youngest member, Theresa Keefer, served cake and punch to the following guest and members: Vicki Keefer, DiAnne Buck, Clinedda Austin, Sheila Parsons, Mary Priddy Casto, Mary Artes, Phyllis Hesson, Sharon Nibert, Commissioner Rick Handley, Eleanor Hoffman, Marilyn Clarke, Patty Johnson, Catherine Yauger, Annamae Keefer, Collett Keefer, Beverly Buckle, Arminta McGraw, Betty Mayes, Janelle Erwin, Margaret Gibson, Alice Click, Helen Lyons, Jerry Morgan, Buddy Davidson, WVDA, Agriculture Agent Rodney Wallbrown, and Mayor Bruce Riffle. Guest earlier in the day were Billy Joe and Karen Barton, family of Natalie Morgan.