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Homemaker of the Year is Van Huystee

by Kate Wolford

Published: Friday, July 6, 2018

Cathy Van Huystee, Senior Homemaker of the Year, greets visitors with a big smile, along with her very sweet chocolate Labrador, Taz. Van Huystee loves being in Four Seasons Extension Homemakers club, so it's no wonder she was given her title by the Elkhart County Extension Homemakers in April.

Van Huystee, a retired speech ther-apist, lives in Elkhart with her husband John, a retired chef. She's a grandmother, and stays active with volunteering.

Her dedication to the Four Seasons Extension Homemakers Club shows in her 47 years of membership and her enthusiasm about the club. She's held "every office within our group," often more than once.

"I served two years on the county Extension board as assistant treasurer and treasurer, and then, over the years, I have served on numerous county Extension committees. Currently, I'm chairman of two county Extension committees," she said.

Why so much involvement with the club and the wider Extension Homemakers Assn. Friendship is the thread that runs through her talk about the Four Seasons club, which currently has 13 members.

"We're all very young in mind and open to learning new concepts," she said.

For example, she enjoyed a recent talk on mindfulness given by Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, an Extension educator and County Extension educator. Mindfulness is growing in popularity throughout the U.S., so the group is keeping up with trends.

"It helps you to remember where you put stuff," Van Huystee said of mindfulness.

Club members enjoy crafting, and Cathy extols the creativity of her fellow club members as she discusses the booth the group puts together each year at the Home and Family Arts Building during fair week. Not tak-ing much credit herself, she said, "They do an awesome job." She adds that Four Seasons has taken first place more than once over the years.

Van Huystee volunteers at the Home and Family Arts Bldg. during fair week, and will sometimes help clean the building and help check in exhibits from contest participants, although she doesn't enter her own exhibits too often.

Despite all the work she does for her club, fellowship is clearly the biggest draw for her: "Friendship, camaraderie and similar interests." She adds that they are all Christians, and that they support each other, and, during tough times, "You just just know that your club members will be there."

Van Huystee has had tough times. She is the mother of three, a son and two daughters. Her daughter Heather was born with spina bifida, and although she usually bounced back quickly from health prob-lems, Heather died 28 years ago, three days before she turned 18.

"She was just the neatest, neatest kid," Van Huystee said.

In fact, Van Huystee speaks with joy about having been Heather's mother, and her own family loss has been transformed into volunteerism at Ryan's Place in Goshen. It's an organiza-tion that helps people of all ages deal with the grief of losing a loved one. Van Huystee is a volunteer facilitator there and uses her skills as a crafter. She was also named volunteer of the year in 2014.

A paper sack craft book is an example of what she has made for Ryan's Place. The nifty-looking book has questions for the recipient to help him or her write down memories of a lost loved one, as well as what they are going through as they grieve and what they've learned.

All in all, it seems that being a member of the Four Seasons and a volunteer, a wife, a mother and a grandmother keep Van Huystee plenty busy. And, of course, there's Taz, her and husband John's rescue dog, who is another of her good friends.

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