Oak Harbor Conservation Club’s Ladies Night celebrates 10th anniversary

Feb 27, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Instructor David Rudes, left, teaches counter-aggressive self-defense techniques to Cyndi Parman. Parman said the class gave her a new perspective on unarmed self-defense. “I would have done it all wrong,” she said. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Ten years ago, Terry Rudes and other members of the Oak Harbor Conservation Club (OHCC) decided to offer women’s self-defense classes that would focus on both shooting skills and unarmed defense. They expected the program to last a few months, but now, a decade later, Ladies Night at OHCC is still going strong.

“We wanted to help women be more aware and be able to defend themselves,” said Rudes, the current president of OHCC. “The program kind of mushroomed. We offer the class to any woman who wants to learn to defend themselves.”

For some women, the program is a proactive means to prepare themselves in case they are ever attacked. For others, it is a response to past trauma. They know what it feels like to be vulnerable in the hands of an attacker, and they want to build the skills and confidence to defend themselves in the future.

Ladies Night at Oak Harbor Conservation Club teaches shooting skills and unarmed defense. The class is open to any women wanting to learn how to defend herself. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

One of the participants is a young woman who took the class in response to a lifetime of abuse. She wishes to remain anonymous for her protection.

“I grew up with an abusive dad, and when I was a teen, my mom’s friend came up with a plan to help us get away,” she said.

The family moved to Northwest Ohio to escape her father, but the years of abuse had molded her ability to defend herself.

“I was in Walmart one day, and this guy kind of creeped me out. I totally froze, and I answered questions I wish I hadn’t answered,” she said.

Thankfully, she was already involved with OHCC’s Ladies Night, and she was able to talk through the scenario with the self-defense instructors, who gave her advice that will better prepare her for any future encounters. She also learned how to shoot through the program.

Oak Harbor Conservation Club President, Terry Rudes, stands next to longtime Ladies Night’s participant, 88-year-old Gretchen Eckelbarger, who joined the class to become confident shooting a gun. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“It definitely helped a lot. I was able to get my concealed carry through here, and I’m more confident with my firearm,” she said.

Ladies Night transformed her ability to take care of herself.

“I wanted to feel more confident because I can feel so helpless,” she said. “This is a good program.”

Confidence is one of the foundational goals for women who join the program, including 88-year-old Gretchen Eckelbarger, who started taking the classes eight years ago. She joined the group to become more confident with a firearm.

“I had a farm in Zanesville and was robbed five times. Shortly after I moved to Port Clinton, a friend suggested I take this class,” Eckelbarger said. “I had shot at the farm, but I didn’t have good training. I got a lot more confident, and now, if something happens, I know I’m protected.”

Eckelbarger is protected by her own skills and confidence, which is the goal of Ladies’ Night.

Instructor David Rudes, right, teaches women how to protect themselves from an armed attacker. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“We’re here for the benefit of the women,” Rudes said.

The classes are not progressive. Each night is different, so women of any skill level can jump into the program at any time.

“This will build your confidence. You’ll feel comfortable, even if you know nothing,” Eckelbarger said. “The trainers are so patient. There’s no pressure in the class. You just learn as you go.”

OHCC’s Ladies Night classes are held the first and third Monday of every month. Unarmed defense training begins at 5 p.m., and shooting instruction starts at 6 p.m. Participants are trained to shoot and handle a gun safely by highly vetted, certified instructors. For more information on Ladies Night or other adult or youth programs, visit www.ohcc.us or call 419-898-9923.

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