Champaign County Home and Community Education celebrates 100 years

The Champaign County Home and Community Education (HCE) celebrated its 100th anniversary July 7 at the Savoy United Methodist Church.

HCE is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on a number of things such as improving the home, community outreach and education.  The Champaign County HCE was formed in May 1918 and has currently about 300 members that are within 15 individual units.

According to Nancy Benz, former county president of the Champaign County HCE, the reason the organization has lasted 100 years because of the leadership.

“When people don’t take over your different jobs and your units then the units disband,” Benz said. “If you don’t have them take over in the county, the counties disband. We are very fortunate that our county is still going strong.”

There were a number of exhibits at the event that displayed information on things such as gardening.

“We were getting lessons in gardening like three lessons a year,” Benz said. “Another area that we always cover is family issues, how to get along with people.”

Jane Chapman, the state president of the Illinois Association of Home and Community Education, spoke to the members at the event to congratulate them on 100 years.

“This fact of education never being complete but is truly life itself is exemplified by each and everyone of you members of the Champaign County HCE as well the members of HCE throughout the state of Illinois,” Chapman said. “You are always eager to seek new experiences, new ideas and new knowledge through HCE. You realized the importance of the HCE program and what it can do for your community and for one’s self improvement and you persevered.”

Kathleen Emery, District 5 director, also spoke and complimented the Champaign County HCE on going on for 100 years and that she is always excited on what they do.

“The exhibits you have all around the room are beautiful, and it takes many people to put them together,” Emery said. “As one of 12 of counties in the state that are turning 100 this year, I just also want to congratulate you. You have done a wonderful job.”

Champaign County Home and Community Education began on May 15, 1918, by Florence E. McConnell, Home Demonstration Agent.  Nora Burt Dunlap, the wife of State Senator Henry M. Dunlap, was the main force in organizing Champaign County women in 1918 into the Champaign County Home Improvement Association which about a year later became “Home Bureau.”  


In 1962 the name changed to Illinois Homemakers Extension Federation and 1995 changed to the current name, Champaign County Home and Community Education.

In the beginning Champaign County groups were organized by townships.  There were 28 townships in the county.  The United State government agreed to furnish $1,500 a year to the county to bring housekeepers together to give them an opportunity to discuss their common problems and to furnish them with progressive information to improve homemaking and their surroundings.  Seven hundred and fifty Champaign County women pledged themselves to give $2 a year for three years and sign a contract to that effect.

Nora Dunlap was 62 years old when the 1918 charter was signed.  She was elected the first county president in 1918 and served as president through 1926.  Dunlap opened her home for Home Improvement/Home Bureau meetings time after time and many “Domestic Science” demonstrations were performed in her kitchen, the most modern in the area.  She enjoyed entertaining and hosted many teas and garden parties for Home Bureau.  Her home is what is now called Senator’s Inn and Pub in Savoy.  She also organized the Savoy Home Bureau Unit in 1918.

She was very active in organizing the Illinois Home Bureau Federation and was elected second vice president in 1925. 

The membership is 300 members with 15 units throughout the county.  The units monthly meetings are social as well as educational gatherings, with always some “fun” included in the program. Local leaders from each unit attend lessons given by the University of Illinois Extension Educators and then presents the lesson to the unit members. 

The Home and Community Education organization continues to focus on the home as well as the community alone with international awareness and cultural arts. Community projects include sponsoring a group home for Development Service Center (DSC).  Five units each sponsor a group home by recognizing the residents on their birthdays and holidays with gifts, projects and goodies.

HCE units also help support many community organizations in need by financial support or volunteering their time.  Also a group of members meets monthly to sew weighted blankets for autistic children in Champaign County.

Home and Community Education has three units that are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.  Dewey/Fisher unit celebrated its 100th anniversary on April 16 with displays of its scrapbooks and memorabilia.  The Savoy Unit and Somer Unit are also celebrating their 100th anniversary. 

CCHE Public Relations Chair Carol Froeschl contributed to this article.

Categories (4):News, Agriculture, Living, People


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