Optimism Reigns as Women’s Club Shares Funds

Members of Lake City’s venerable, 80-year- old Pioneer Jubilee Women’s Club distributed the rewards of the club’s 2019 fundraising efforts during an optimism-filled meeting held at Lake City Arts’ Anthony Gallery on Wednesday afternoon, January 8. With club president Peggy Berg describing the fund-distribution meeting “as the most fun meeting of the year” — and retiring club Secretary Celeste Scott concurring, enthusiastically declaring, “I just love giving away other people’s money” — the club distributed a total of 13 grants totalling $15,000 to local non-profit and civic organizations. In her opening remarks, club President Berg recalled that summer, 2019, was a challenging time to Lake City non-profits as the result of flood planning efforts. Berg, a native of Texas who grew up in a small community, said the flood preparations reminded her of Galveston but that fortunately “no disaster occurred,” although local nonprofits felt the economic impact. Despite last summer’s challenges, ambitious members of Pioneer Jubilee Women’s Club held a series of successful fundraisers, in the process raising sufficient funds to more than double what the club dispensed in 2018. Successful fundraisers briefly enumerated by Berg included the Women’s Club’s traditional July 4 hotdog booth which was joined last summer by other equally successful fundraisers such as a community garage sale, chuckwagon dinner and dance, and sale of flower baskets to individuals. Rounding out the club’s fundraisers in 2019 was the silent cookie auction in late December which raised $2,523 for the Toys for Tots campaign. Reviewing numerous applications from local non-profits for this year’s funding was a daunting task, according to Berg, and she extended thanks to the three-person committee charged with the task, comprised of chairwoman Celeste Scott and committee members Mary Nettleton and Janis Harris. Berg also commented on the local women’s club’s longevity which this year marks its 80th birthday. Founded in 1940, early members of Pioneer Jubilee Women’s Club included the wives and daughters of the town’s earliest pioneers. “I’m not sure where the Jubilee name came,” she added, “maybe they were just having a really good time.” Comparing the small Texas town where she grew up to Lake City, commonalities mentioned by Berg included the fact “small town living is a unique experience.” A common trait evident in the club’s growth to 80 members, including seasonal residents such as herself, and successful fundraising “is it takes the entire community to make it thrive.” Following Berg’s opening remarks, representatives gratefully accepted their checks and briefly described how the Women’s Club proceeds will be utilized. Lake City Fire/Rescue Fire Chief Darren Hardy and Fire Marshal Joe Wonnacott were on hand, Hardy telling Women’s Club members that their donation will assist the fire department purchase a “live burn trailer” for use in “realistic scenarios” as fire volunteers learn how to combat fires. Donation checks were received by Lake City Downtown Improvement & Revitalization Team (DIRT), represented by Phil Virden for the ongoing Dark Skies Initiative and Kathy Koehn on behalf of the Lake City Blooms flower basket project. Koehn exuberantly stated that the women’s club contribution will allow the multi-year Lake City summer beautification project to grow and expand. Although initially challenged when the program’s traditional flower basket supplier, Caitlin’s near Monte Vista, Colorado, went out of business, Koehn said the program persevered and furnished a total of 20 flower baskets which were displayed on lamp posts throughout Lake City. The flower baskets require watering and fertilizing on a routine basis, the result, she said, being a significant enhancement of the town’s natural beauty. Each year, according to Koehn, the project adds new elements and updates its equipment. On behalf of Dark Skies in Lake City, Phil Virden stated the Women’s Club donation will be utilized for public outreach, including a portable planetarium and Windy Point programs, as well as a telescope for permanent use. Virden said that on his first Lake City camping excursion in 1973, he awoke at night and was mesmerized to see the Milky Way in the “extraordinary night sky… it was the start of a love affair which continues to this day.” Patrice Palmer for Friends of the Bears thanks the Women’s Club for their $1,000 contribution which will be leveraged with a grant application to Lake Fork Community Foundation to purchase and install up to four food lockers at the county’s Wupperman Campground at Lake San Cristobal. Dr. Gina Carr and Malinda McDonald, on behalf of Lake City Area Medical Center, said the funding would be used for continuing education requirements for staff, Dr. Carr specifically mentioning staff training for nurses’ critical care and advanced cardiac care. Hinsdale County Museum’s Grant Houston recalled that the museum’s extensive collections began in 1974 when Pioneer Jubilee Women’s club transferred artifacts from the club’s small museum to newly-formed Hinsdale County Historical Society. “The Women’s Club has continued to offer strong support to the museum’s mission for over 40 years,” said Houston. Houston noted challenges successfully met by the museum in last summer’s flood planning, primary of which was evacuation of the museum and transfer of its collections to temporary storage on higher ground.  The museum is making strong strides and is now at work on displays when the museum reopens for the summer in late May this year. The Women’s Club funding will be used for purchase of acid-free storage containers, according to Houston. Lake City Community School checks were accepted by School Superintendent Rebecca Hall and Administrative Aide Shawn Arthur. Hall stated that Women’s Club funding will send the school’s special education, deaf, and Title I teachers to early literacy training which will be held in Durango. Staff taking the training will in turn return to Lake City and share outcomes from the training with other school staff members. A second Lake City Community School grant from the Women’s Club will assist with a financial literacy class which is now mandatory for the school’s 11th Grade students. Women’s Club funds will be used as the class initiates a business plan and start-up store to be operated by the class selling Fourteeners merchandise. Michelle Martin and Sarah Tubbs, for Wee Care in Lake City, reflected on quality child care which is provided at the facility and the center’s ongoing efforts to remain financially viable which, according to Martin, “is challenging at times.” Money received by Wee Care from the women’s club will be used for a change in door locks throughout the daycare center “to keep our students and staff safe.” Carolyn Hull accepted a check on behalf of Wagner Public Library which, according to Hull, will be used in a beneficial manner to construct fencing at the library-owned property at the corner of Second and Silver to the immediate south of the library building. Kat Menzies, for Hinsdale County Chamber of Commerce, stated that the club’s donation to the Chamber will be used for continuing landscaping improvements at the visitors’ center. Dave Dayvault, for Lake City Arts, referenced last year’s Women’s Club donation which was earmarked for improvements to the outdoor patio area at Moseley Arts Center. The project was complicated late last spring, he said, by accumulated snow 4-1/2’ deep which had be to removed before Phase I improvements in the form of a new bar, patio furniture, flower pots and necessary pruning were commenced. This year’s Women’s Club donation, according to Dayvaut, will be used for Phase II patio improvements, including an extension to the deck and improved lighting. Lake Fork Valley conservancy was represented by its executive director, Camille Richard, and Katherine Heidt. Richard recounted that the Hearts & Spades Community Garden is moving from the town property north of Lake City Medical Center and will relocate to land owned by Town of Lake City at Pete’s Lake where new fencing and raised beds will be constructed. The Women’s Club money, she said, will be used for important irrigation improvements at the new site in the form of a water pump to be used in transferring water from the adjacent irrigation ditch into the new garden.