2012-11-08 / News

Membership drive keeps Jamestown Women’s Club alive

Ads, letters to the editor nearly triples participants

Kerry McDevitt and Jake Northup were in costume Oct. 28 for the 24th running of the Jack-O’-Lantern Jog. The women’s club helps sponsor the event. 
PHOTO BY JEFF MCDONOUGH Kerry McDevitt and Jake Northup were in costume Oct. 28 for the 24th running of the Jack-O’-Lantern Jog. The women’s club helps sponsor the event. PHOTO BY JEFF MCDONOUGH At the Jamestown Women’s Club, the rule is simple: the more the merrier. And it’s been pretty merry lately. According to Cindy Smith, the club’s secretary, a recent membership drive has almost tripled the club’s population.

“It’s great we have more people,” she said, adding that new members bring new ideas and suggestions about expanding the club’s activities. If the club continues to grow, she quipped, it might get big enough to put on dances again.

The club meets the third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Jamestown Philomenian Library. Over the past few months, several newcomers have turned up at the meetings after she put out the word the club wanted to grow. Even with the increase, more people are welcome.

Smith spearheaded the membership drive, according to President Mim Munro, and it’s been a great success. Smith said the club was down to seven members and there was concern the group would have to disband. Now, the membership is up to about 20 and the fresh troops will mean the club can continue traditions like the Easter egg hunt and the Adopt-a-Family for Christmas program.

Also important, additional members take up the burden, so the same people don’t have to step up all the time. They don’t have to give so much time now, said Smith, which makes the club all the more enjoyable.

Smith said the Jamestown Women’s Club mission has changed over the decades since 1971 when founding members Jan Martin, Margo Vietri, Sue Brayman, Debbie Swistak and Dee Hellewell began with activities like organizing dances and sponsoring trips.

“It was formed as a social club,” Smith said. But over time, the members focused less on socials and more on service. She speculated that the change in women’s lives during the 1970s helped change the focus, but also began to erode the membership.

Smith said a lot of women didn’t work in 1971, but when the workingwoman became the norm, many no longer had time for the club.

“People got busy,” she said. “Slowly the group was fading out.”

Most of the founding members have moved on, but some of the current members have belonged to the club for 20 years. Smith said her two sisters-in-law are longtime members. They told her about the club, and she joined four years ago when she returned from Salem, N.H.

Smith grew up in Jamestown. She and her husband decided to come home and spend their retirement years on the island.

Her sister-in-law, Janet Smith, worked with her on the membership drive. “It was getting desperate,” she said.

Smith wrote a letter about the club to the Jamestown Press, and the members also bought advertisements letting people know the Jamestown Women’s Club wanted new members. The message was simple.

“We need help,” she said to sum it up. And people responded. She received telephone calls and emails, and several women came to the meetings.

“They don’t want to lose the traditions we have in town,” she said.

Her own personal favorite is the Adopt-a-Family for Christmas. A local social worker gives the club members information about families who could use a little help at the holidays. With the list of children’s ages and their gift wishes in hand, the women fan out and shop. They try to buy each child clothing and a toy or craft. For a 12-yearold girl who likes art, for example, Smith will buy some paints or drawing materials and then hunt for a pretty scarf or hat.

“I love to go shopping,” Smith said. After buying the presents, the club members spend an evening together to wrap them and write out gift cards so that the parents can sign from Santa or mom and dad. It’s also a nice social evening for the club, she said.

The club also supports other good causes in the community using money the members earn by collecting the names, addresses and phone numbers for the town’s telephone book. That’s their fundraising project, she said, and the money goes a long way.

“We have quite a bit we do,” said Smith. Besides the annual Easter egg hunt, the club contributes to the Parks & Recreation Department’s Jack-O’-Lantern Jog, which was held just two weeks ago.

The club also helps out with the annual tree lighting by serving hot chocolate and cider. Furthermore, it awards “big scholarships” to high school graduates and contributes regularly to the annual fireworks display.

The members keep an eye out for the seniors as well. They help with items like a new microwave oven for the senior center, and have also funneled money to the vans used by the senior and teen centers.

How does the club know what causes to help? Smith says people write to them, and members go over the list and decide which ones they can support.

For one recent example, she said, the club donated money for the boulder playground at the Lawn Avenue School.

Besides Munro and Smith, the other club officers are Sam Pease, the vice president, and Jan Washburn, treasurer.

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