Woman's Club of Lehighton celebrates 100 years of community service
"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" was the most popular song of the year.
The first inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, was held on Tuesday, March 4, 1913.
Just nine days later, a small group of women met at the home of Mrs. Allen Kreidler to form a club known as Mother's Club of Lehighton. From that meeting, an organization was born that has served the Lehighton community for 100 years.
The Woman's Club of Lehighton recently held a dinner at Mahoning Valley Country Club to celebrate a century of community service.
During her welcome remarks, club President Nancy Carlson recognized past presidents, asking them to stand.
"We are here today because of you and all that you have done," she said.
With background assistance from Past President Gloria DeSousa, Past Club President Joan Hanosek offered a brief history of the organization.
According to Hanosek, the first recorded minutes of the organization are dated March 5, 1914. At that time, the name was changed from Mother's Club of Lehighton to Women's Civic Club of Lehighton. Mrs. J.A. Trexler was elected as the first president of the organization.
Dues were set at not less than 24 cents a year. An additional 10 cents a year was added to the dues when it was agreed to join the Mother's Congress of Pennsylvania.
Some of the first projects of the organization included a bird house contest for young boys of the community, and helping to purchase six trash receptacles from Kemmerer Hardware Company and placing them around town to help clean up the untidy streets.
In keeping with their beautifying efforts, the club assumed the responsibility of maintaining and financing a crescent-shaped flower bed in the "upper" Lehighton park.
The Women's Civic Club of Lehighton helped to develop the concept of a public library in town. They purchased a book and placed it in Mr. Sonheimer's store so that children could borrow it to read. Before long, the club was maintaining a reading room for children and adults in the Second Ward school building during the summer months.
On June 8, 1916, the group joined the County Federation of Woman's Clubs. It remained a member of the federation until 1993.
The name was changed to the Woman's Club of Lehighton in March of 1952. The motto is "To serve Family, Community, and Self."
Over the years, the organization was asked to endorse such local efforts as the purchase of Lindeman's Grove (now the Community Grove) as a public park and playground; the proposal to make permanent streets in Lehighton starting with Mahoning Street; and the borough manager-type government for Lehighton Borough.
Organizations helped by Woman's Club of Lehighton have included Carbon County Agency for the Blind; Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital (now part of Blue Mountain Health System); Lehighton Area Memorial Library; Lehighton Area School District; Lehighton Band; Meals on Wheels; and Red Cross to name a few.
In addition, club members were involved in war efforts during both world wars by furnishing surgical dressings, knitted garments, and collecting money to purchase kits for U.S. servicemen and women. In 1944, the club purchased a dogwood tree which was planted in the park to honor the men and women from Lehighton serving in the armed forces.
"Over time, we were no longer a club for the select elite. Club members were no longer judged for whom they were married to or what they had," said Hanosek. "But rather, they were accepted for what they had to share their skills, their talents, their time, and their friendship.
"Gone were the secretly selected members, gone were the gloves and hats," she continued. "Here to stay was the liberated woman finally!"
Through the years, fundraising efforts to help finance various community service programs have included bus trips; card parties; dinners; food stands at community events; and the sale of "Woman's Club of Lehighton Cookbook."
One memorable fundraiser was a strawberry shortcake and homemade ice cream stand for Lehighton's 1976 Bicentennial Celebration on a hot and humid July day.
"Looking back over these past 100 years, we realize all that we have been able to accomplish and what an asset we have been to our community. We have been blessed with visionary leadership, eager and dedicated members, and a community that has endorsed and accepted our organization," said Hanosek. "Thank you to everyone who has helped to make our first 100 years stimulating, challenging, enjoyable and successful."
Representatives from other local organizations joined in to congratulate the club including Blue Mountain Health System; Borough of Lehighton; Girl Scouts; Lehighton Area Memorial Library; Lehighton Area School District; Lehighton Rotary Club; and Nesquehoning Woman's Club.
Lehighton Mayor Donald Rehrig presented a proclamation to Carlson.
"This organization is truly an asset to the Lehighton area," he said. "Thank you for your dedication and commitment to our community."
With Pennsylvania legislators in session, Tim Berger represented state Rep. Doyle Heffley, and presented Carlson with a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Lisa Johnson, vice president of public affairs for BMHS, thanked the organization for its accomplishments.
"If it weren't for the local woman's clubs, so many things for the hospital would have gone undone through the years," said Johnson.
The Rev. Nancy Moore, pastor of St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Weissport, who offered the invocation, expressed her respect for the club and its members.
"May you continue to enrich the lives of others for the next 100 years," said Moore.
Tim Tkach, Lehighton Area School District director of Curriculum, Instructions, and Grants, said, "No matter where you go, women are the backbone of the community. You are the fabric that holds it all together. For that, thank you."
Gloria Bowman, past club president, thanked TIMES NEWS reporter Gail Maholick for her coverage of the organization over the years.
"I remember coming to all of the meetings and events over the years," said Maholick. "I really appreciate all that you do and your friendship, as well."
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by Brad Cressley of Carbon County Music and More accompanied by Brandon Cressley, Laura Cressley, Abby Hoppes, Jordan Lichtenwalner, Maura Phelan and Thomas Phelan. The anniversary cake was presented by Past Club President Kaye Miller.
Summing up the organization's first 100 years and the special evening to celebrate it, Hanosek concluded her remarks with a quote by American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."