Though very heavily involved helping out her church and at Pine Village, Moundridge resident Geneva Wedel has a particular passion for one of the first service organizations she became a part of — the National Association for Family and Community Education.

Originally joining the Canton unit of FCE as a charter member in 1976, Wedel's role has evolved over the years as she has continued to invest her time and talent in the organization's mission of continuing education. Wedel has taken on work at each level of the organization (local, county, regional, state and national), ranging from the creation of educational displays for annual county fairs to making reports for both state and national conventions to helping share the lessons at the heart of FCE with local senior centers.

"We have lessons that we get on the state level that are written by K-State professors and they want their research to be out and about, more than for just their class or for publishing, so they always write about a four-page lesson. Then, there's a committee that chooses some of those lessons that we have each year from the K-State professors," Wedel said. "...Those lessons then get passed through that network so it filters down that each of the units can then present these lessons."

Lessons taught by FCE members can cover topics such as food/nutrition, grandparenting, modern technology, fitness and more, including current issues like this year's lesson on human trafficking.

Given her nearly four decades as part of the FCE organization, Wedel has also gotten the chance to write some of those lessons herself, presenting on topics such as ethics, listening and ethnic foods.

For her lesson on ethnic foods, Wedel researched multiple countries (Norway, Germany, England and Mexico) and made dishes representing each of those cultures — like German peppernuts or English wassail (mulled cider) — that fellow FCE leaders could pass on, either focusing on one recipe/country or integrating them all into a multi-cultural meal.

Wedel admitted she took great joy in teaching her own lessons and the feedback she would get even after the initial lesson had been taught because, as she pointed out, those lessons could be informative and crucial in the continuing education process.

"Later, over a couple of years, even then somebody said 'oh, I enjoyed that lesson because we made this in our unit or we tried that at Christmas time,' some of those ethnic dishes, so I guess that was something I was proud of," Wedel said.

"It used to be that people would say this was my college education and it helped them to be better housewives and homemakers," Wedel said. "Women came to learn. A long time ago they learned how to make hats, mattresses, dresses. It was learning that they needed in their homemaking skills, newer techniques in canning or how to can, how to garden, those type of things."

Additionally, Wedel has been very hands-on helping with numerous state and national conventions. At the state level, she has helped scheduled speakers for the numerous workshops put on at each convention, while she has adopted the tour guide role for national conventions — organizing bus trips for Kansas FCE members and scheduling stops, often educational in nature, in many historic cities (i.e. Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., etc.) along the way.

During the most recent NAFCE conference in Austin, Texas, Wedel was recognized as this year's recipient of the "Heart of FCE" award for Kansas for all those tasks she has routinely taken on over the course of four decades with the organization. It's an honor with tiered nominations, starting at the smallest level of FCE (units) and progressing, in an effort to recognize work that may sometimes get overlooked.

"This was set up to give an honor to people who maybe don't get honors in other ways. Officers always have gifts and honors and whatnot, like the national officers, the state officers, but this was set up so 'Plain Jane' can get nominated for what is done in the unit," Wedel said. "I was very surprised when I was voted on the state level to get it because I know the other four ladies who were on the state level from all over Kansas. I knew who they were, and they were all very deserving of the honor, too."

Surprised as Wedel might have been, it is clear she is very much deserving for all the work she has done with FCE — something she continues to encourage others to get involved in, not only for the educational value, but for the entire experience.

"My advice would be it's also a fun group because we don't just have educational lessons," Wedel said. "The different units usually meet monthly and we have maybe about seven lessons or so, so that leaves several months that units can plan fun things — like education tours or local speakers."

For more information on how to get involved in the local Newton unit, contact Harvey County Extension agent Aaron Swank at 284-6930.