The roots of the Brooksville Woman's Club run deep at its downtown gathering spot. Straight into the soil beneath their clubhouse — literally. Back in 1915, when the ladies bought the lot at 131 S Main St., they needed to raise money for a clubhouse. So they tilled the soil there and grew and sold sweet potatoes.
By 1931, the ladies had raised enough money and their clubhouse was built at the site for a whopping $3,045.
The club, organized in 1910 by a group of women interested in civic affairs and family, is celebrating 100 years of service to the community and beyond.
A group of determined and hardworking women can accomplish an awful lot over the course of a century. From Brooksville's downtown to local hospitals and schools, there's little the volunteers haven't touched at some point over the years.
"If people ask us to help, we do," said president Joan Sherman, 77, adding that they always wish they could do more.
Member Phyllis Mlecka, 77, who proudly wears her 50-year membership pin, spent the past few months researching the local club's long history. She narrated an electronic presentation highlighting key events and accomplishments.
To commemorate the anniversary, her presentation, along with a collection of the club's keepsakes, are on display at the Pasco-Hernando Community College Brooksville campus library.
The Brooksville Woman's Club is part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, one of the oldest and largest nonpartisan, nondenominational women's volunteer service organizations in the country, Mlecka said.
The club's first project was a small library housed in the First National Bank's meeting room. Records indicate that by 1918, the club's library had grown to 1,033 books valued at $835.
Early on, it was a club of stylish hats and gloves. Despite those adornments, members were serious about their commitment to supporting those in need. They knitted sweaters and stockings for Army camps, served hot chocolate to students in rural schools and provided medicine for those who could not afford it.
During the suffrage movement, women encouraged one another to study in order to vote intelligently, said Mlecka.
Over the years, members took up various causes, raising funds and volunteering to create change. They brought youth clubs — the Brownies and Girl Scouts — to the region. In the 1970s, they founded a kitchen band, which performed throughout the county, raising enough money to buy a much-needed bus for HARC, (known today as Arc Nature Coast), Mlecka said.
The Brooksville Woman's Club began the annual Christmas parade in 1975, sponsoring it for 10 years.
In the 1980s, quilting classes became popular and quilt shows became part of their fundraising. The club also began a scholarship to help women further their education. Over the years, 24 Pasco-Hernando Community College students have benefited from the Brooksville Woman's Club scholarships and the endowment has grown to nearly $40,000.
Kelly Gilbert, 29, is one of the recipients. She hopes to graduate from PHCC this year with her associate's degree in business administration.
"If it wasn't for the scholarships, I wouldn't be able to go to school," Gilbert said. "It has helped tremendously."
Barmell Dixon, 73, has been a club member for more than 46 years, and is also a past president. She's most proud of the scholarship fund.
"It lives beyond us," Dixon said.
The club has about 30 members and welcomes newcomers. Sherman has been a member for eight years. She saw an ad for the club's yearly Victorian Tea, which is sponsored as part of Founders Week, and decided to check it out.
"We had a great day," Sherman said. And she knew right away she would join.
A lot has changed over the years for the club, including the leader's duties. Had Sherman been president back in the early years of the club, she would have had a special task to perform for her members: It was the president's job to arrive early for meetings to start a fire in the potbelly stove.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.
100th anniversary for Woman's Club
Brooksville Woman's Club presentation and commemorative display
Where: PHCC Brooksville Campus Library, 11415 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
When: Through March 31
Cost: Free and open to the public
Club volunteers are on hand Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to answer questions and show the presentation
Open House Reception
When: Friday 4 to 7 p.m.
Where: 131 S Main St., Brooksville
To lean more
To RSVP, or for more information about the club, visit brooksvillebusiness.com/brooksville womensclubpage.html