Current Events Club disbands

Their good works will continue

June 7, 2014
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Kathie O. Warco / Observer-Reporter
From left, Current Events Club members Sonna Agnew, Sara Jane McCullough and Cathie Boni mark the end of an era with the group’s final meeting Saturday. Order a Print
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Exterior of the house that was the site of the Current Events Club on South Wade Avenue in East Washington Tuesday. Order a Print

There was laughter and a few tears Saturday afternoon after a group of women in a club who has a long history of helping others met for the final time.

But the good works of the Current Events Club, that dates back to 1895, will go one forever through the efforts of the Washington County Community Foundation.

At the group’s final banquet at the Southpointe Golf Club, Sara Jane McCullough, club treasurer, announced that about $150,000 will be turned over to the foundation. Each year, the foundation will distribute grants to Citizen’s Library for the children’s department, Bradford House Historical Foundation, Washington Health System Foundation for the Donnell House and Domestic Violence Services.

The gift will continue a legacy that saw many organizations, as well as individuals, helped by the club through the years. The first meeting of the club was held Nov. 23, 1895 and by-laws adopted in 1897. The original intention was discussion current events.

The first challenge adopted by the club’s civics department was making improvements to the public library that was in the town hall in 1902. After improvements were made, the club held its first annual tea on New Year’s Day 1903. The tea would continue for nearly a century.

The library continued to be the club’s primary interest, eventually pushing for construction of a new building.

The club took on making other improvements, such as requesting Washington to put garbage cans on street corners and publish the schedule for garbage collection. They sent a telegram to the state’s committee of industrial relations asking for favorable attention to an amendment to the child labor bill. State senators and representatives were asked to establish a state reformatory for women.

Other interests included social centers for older people, schooling for illiterate women, better markings of streets, Washington Park public comfort and rest rooms. A daughter’s club also was formed, working with their mother’s on the various civic projects.

The club also wanted a permanent home. In 1952, the club and daughters club adopted by-laws for The Current Events Club Home Association. A home at 49 S. Wade Ave., East Washington Borough, was purchased in November 1952 for $22,000 using $12,000 from the building fund as well as a $10,000 mortgage. The mortgage was burned seven years later.

Betsie Trew, president and chief executive officer of the WCCF, explained that the annual grants will be known as The Current Events Club Home Fund.

“Your good works will continue into perpetuity,” Trew explained.

“Our name will continue in Washington,” McCullough said. “We will not be completely gone.”

Based on the amount expected to be turned over, the annual grant will total $6,000 with each entity to be given $1,500. Representatives of all four organizations expressed gratitude for the continued generosity.

Rebecca Smiley, children’s services manager at the library, said that many books in the library boast gift plates indicating they had been donated by the Current Events Club. The display case that visitors see when they enter from the parking lot was a donation from the club decades ago.

The grant could not come at a better time for the Bradford House, said Rachel Gladden of the house’s historical association. She said the state recently announced plans to sell the house.

“But it look like the association will be able to buy it back from the state,” she said. “The Bradford House is home to the Whiskey Rebellion. It is part of the history and important to our area. We keep history alive every day.”

Richard Mahoney of Washington Health System said the Donnell House was the first residential hospice built in this area. Of the $3.4 million needed to construct it, Mahoney said $3.2 million was raised through philanthropic gifts from the community. The club’s gift will continue that philanthropy, he added.

Michelle Robinson-Ritter, executive director of Domestic Violence Services, thanked the club for their continued generosity over the years.

“You have been so wonderful to us for so long,” she said. “It is wonderful you will continue to be giving.”

Trew said donations can continue to made to The Current Events Fund through the WCCF.

Not only was it time for generosity Saturday afternoon, but reminiscing as well. Patty Thompson told other club members that she grew up in the library. And when it moved to the new building, she became a full-time employee.

“The tea was the highlight of the year,” Thompson said. “Starting the week before, the windows would be cleaned and the floors buffed so shiny you could see yourself.”

“It was constant activity,” she said. “On Saturday, the florist would deliver flower arrangements. And the tea table was set beautifully with cut table cloths.”

Duncan Miller tea cups and cookie plates, lined with doilies, would be used.

“People didn’t realize how much time it took to pack it back up and take home,” McCullough said.”We’d get home and I’d ask my mother, where do you want me to put this stuff.”

McCullough’s late mother, Sara Litle, was first president of the club’s home association.

Cathie Boni, club president said the friendships made are enduring. Saturday was a day to celebrate the lives of many women in the club.

“The years have passed by ever so quickly,” said Sonna Agnew, president of the club’s home association, who compiled a history presented Saturday. “The membership of 200 has dropped to 24. The club house has been sold to a very, caring couple.”

“We can drive by 49 S. Wade Ave. and see a beautiful house and remember all the good times we had,” she added. “I think Mrs. Schmitz, Mrs. Linn and Mrs. Linton and all the women that began this wonderful club are smiling down on us and saying ‘Well done my sisters. Thanks for carrying on our dreams.’”

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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