Skip to content

Barren County Homemakers: Serving soup to save lives


MEMBERS OF THE BARREN COUNTY HOMEMAKERS prepared napkins and utensils for the organization’s annual Bean Soup Luncheon to be held on Friday. Proceeds from the event benefit the UK Ovarian Cancer Screening Program which provides free screening for all Kentucky women. Sam Terry / Jobe Publishing photo.


By Sam Terry
Managing Editor, Jobe Publishing, Inc.

The aroma of piping hot cornbread, pinto beans, and white beans will fill the Barren County Extension Office on Friday as the Barren County Homemakers continue their long-standing event to continue the vision of one of the organization’s members.

Virginia McCandless had a vision for women to live their lives without Ovarian Cancer.  The Barren County woman found herself facing the disease known as “the silent killer” while she was State Health Chairwoman for the Kentucky Extension Homemaker’s Association in 1978.  By the next year McCandless had enlisted the help of her fellow Homemakers in raising money to combat the disease and detect it among Kentucky women.

According to UK HealthCare, ovarian cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancer diagnoses, and 6 percent of cancer-related deaths in women.   According to University of Kentucky health officials, many times the disease has no symptoms and is not detected until it is at an advanced stage, leaving few options for treatment.  Screening for the disease is the best way to detect the disease early, but many women find the cost prohibitive, with costs ranging from $350 to $850.

McCandless knew first-hand that the cost of early detection was far less than the cost of treatment and potential loss of life if left undetected.  Her efforts centered on aiding research at the University of Kentucky and finding ways to make women aware of the disorder.  The initial goal McCandless set was for every Homemaker’s Club member in Kentucky to give $1.  In the years since, well over $1 million has been raised.

One of the results of Homemaker’s involvement is the UK Markey Cancer Center Ovarian Screening Program started in 1987.  The program provides free cancer screenings by transvaginal ultrasound to postmenopausal women who are over the age of 50 or over the age of 25 with a documented family history of ovarian cancer.

According to Dr. John R. van Nagell, Jr., who directs the program, women can go to UK Medical Centers in Lexington, Elizabethtown, Somerset, Prestonsburg, Maysville and Paducah.  Since the screenings began 80 cases of the disease have been detected, 70% of which were in the early stages and treatable.  Locally, 35-40 Homemakers Club members are screened annually in addition to other local women whose physicians recommend the program.  Women interested in learning more about the program can telephone toll free 1-800-766-8279.

McCandless lost her battle with the ailment in 1981, long before the fruits of her efforts were helping Kentucky women.  However, her fellow Homemaker’s Club members in Barren County honor her each year by raising money for the fund with a Bean Soup Luncheon held at the Barren County Agriculture Extension Office.  This year’s event is scheduled for Friday, March 3.

According to Betsy Ann Tracy, County Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, club members prepare 180 pounds of beans and mix up 30 pounds of cornmeal into cornbread to feed as many as 500 attendees.  Area businesses donate a large portion of the required supplies while club members prepare homemade desserts.

This year’s event will be held Friday, March 3, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Barren County Extension Office, 1463 West Main St. in Glasgow.   The cost is $6.00 per person for all you can eat – bean soup, cornbread, homemade dessert and drink. Eat-in, carry out or delivery of 10 or more orders to one location within the city limits. Delivery orders need to be called in by Wednesday afternoon. All proceeds go to Ovarian Cancer Research.

Barren County’s Virginia McCandless is shown with Dr. John van Nagell, Jr., director of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center’ Ovarian Cancer Screening Program. McCandless started the effort to aid Kentucky women in early detection of the disease.

Leave a Comment