Women's Club sees 75 years in Pitcairn
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Meghan Castagnero, 26, is the youngest member of the Pitcairn Women's Club, an organization with members whose average age is 65.
"They're a lot of fun to be with," said Ms. Castagnero, a graduate student at Chatham University. "They're interested in what I'm doing and ask me about school."
This year, the group is celebrating its 75th year with nostalgic events that harken to the past and support the future.
"I was raised to give back to the community," Ms. Castagnero said.
That was the attitude of the club's civic-minded founding members in 1935, when their goal was to promote educational, philanthropic, moral and social measures. Many of those priorities endure, said Patti Kemerer, a 30-year member who sits on the board.
She said the club, although much smaller than in decades past, still works diligently to support a myriad of community efforts and organizations.
"We have created and maintained an organized center for women's work," said Laura Felton, 81, an active board member for more than 50 years. "One thing we haven't done was to toot our own horn."
Each year, the women's club holds two major fundraising events -- a pancake breakfast in November and a Night at the Auction in March -- to boost its budget.
The group, in turn, supports community causes, including Make-A-Wish, the American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days, several local Scout groups and sports teams, local veterans, Pitcairn community days and more.
Ms. Felton remembered that from the 1950s until the late '70s, the club also supported a free baby clinic in town. Under the supervision of a doctor, club members staffed an office where mothers could get free medical examinations, immunizations and nutritional information for their children.
To honor the memory of the clinic, the club will hold a "baby shower" in April with contributions going to a local shelter.
The club originally was called the Young Women's Club. One of its goals is to raise scholarship money for two Pitcairn residents and Gateway High School graduates. This year, Hannah Peters and Karen Cummings were each awarded $500. In 2011, the amount will increase to $750.
Ms. Castagnero was the recipient of the scholarship before she went to Kent State University as an undergraduate. Today, she is in the physician assistant program at Chatham.
"There is so much the club does that people aren't aware of," she said.
Like many daughters with mothers active in the organization, Ms. Castagnero enjoyed going to yearly Christmas parties and other fundraising events as a young girl. She officially became a member at age 18, then the club's treasurer after graduating from college.
"Some of the older women wanted to be more involved but weren't always able. They needed help," she said.
Women's groups in general are losing younger members. When Ms. Felton became a member in 1956, fewer women worked outside the home and children were not involved in as many extracurricular activities that required parental involvement.
"In the '70s, we had well over 100 members. Now we have about 30," Ms. Kemerer said.
From 1948 through 2010, the club was part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, headquartered in Washington, D.C., which spearheads women's rights and promotes community improvement through volunteer service. In June, the Pitcairn Women's Club voted to part ways with the national group to better focus its efforts on local causes.
"It was a very difficult decision, but almost all of our money went to the federation," Ms. Felton said.
"The community of Pitcairn has changed over the years," Ms. Kemerer said, "but the overall need of the community has remained the same."
First Published September 30, 2010 5:59 am