The Beaufort Woman’s Club recently achieved its 95th year of service to the community, and the public is invited to attend a special birthday celebration from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Beaufort train depot.
“Since 1921, the Woman’s Club has a long and rich history of shaping our community,” Karma Rodholm, 2016-17 Beaufort Woman’s Club President, said. “We would like to invite everyone to drop in to enjoy some birthday cake and hear a fun and interesting program about our club’s history.”
Ms. Rodham said the birthday committee has scoured the club’s scrapbooks to prepare a historical slide presentation and an exhibit for the public to enjoy. The presentation will begin at 5 p.m.
From organizing a Beaufort public library in 1922 to supporting arts and education in Carteret County schools in 2016, the club has a history of supporting community development, health and welfare, historic preservation, youth, women, art and education.
The present-day club traces its roots to Jan. 21, 1921, when 12 community-minded women held their first meeting.
The next year, the club opened a public library in a Front Street home after holding a door-to-door drive to raise money and book donations.
In 1932, the club opened and operated the first school cafeteria at the Beaufort Public School. On a shoestring budget, members served nearly 16,000 hot lunches during the Depression-era school year of 1932-33.
In 1957, the club originated the Beaufort Old Homes Tour, a highly popular attraction that continues today under the leadership of the Beaufort Historical Association.
From 1994 to 1996, club members raised $200,000 to restore the train depot, where town government, county government and other meetings are held.
Other major Woman’s Club accomplishments:
• Restored The Old Burying Ground in 1947.
• Designed the Beaufort town seal in 1969 and the town flag in 1972.
• Raised $100,000 to purchase and relocate the circa 1726 Ward-Hancock house from 2005-10.
• Supported the Good Samaritan School in Beaufort, Haiti from 2012-16.
• Supported the restoration of the 1821 Purvis Chapel in 2014.
• Held an arts competition for students at Croatan, West Carteret and East Carteret high schools from 2014-present.
• Provided scholarships for East Carteret High School students from 1990s-present.
• Held an art auction to purchase art supplies in seven Beaufort and Down East schools from 2009-present.
• Awarded grants to nine local organizations during 2016, including Family Promise, The Bridge Downeast Ramsey Center, Beaufort Middle School Special Needs Class Expansion, Carteret County Community Theatre, Olde Beaufort Farmers’ Market, Project Superhero ENC, Beaufort Lion’s Club, Eagle Scout Project and the Beaufort Historical Association.
The mission of the Beaufort Woman’s Club is to make a positive difference in the community by supporting preservation, revitalization, education and the economically depressed.
The club is open to all without discrimination, encouraging relationships, fellowship, growth, leadership and a commitment to community.
With 80 active members, a 40 percent increase over 2015-16, the club enters 2017 with a growing membership and a renewed outlook to support important causes.
History Highlights of Beaufort Woman’s Club
1920s to 1940s
In 1922, the Woman’s Club opened a public library at the Front Street home of Mrs. John Forlaw. Members held a door-to-door membership drive to raise money and book donations. Mrs. Forlaw served as librarian, checking out books and accepting donations. Within five years, the library had moved into the first floor of a building at the corner of Front and Craven streets, and boasted more than 500 volumes.
In 1932, the club opened and operated the first school cafeteria at the Beaufort Graded School. Using only a four-burner oil stove, a wood range and dishes borrowed from the Baptist church and the Masonic Lodge, rotating teams of club members served hot lunches to as many as 100 children daily.
Children who were able to afford lunch paid 14 cents a meal, underprivileged children were served free of charge and children from farm families could receive a hot meal in exchange for produce.
The project was hailed as exemplary and served as a model for other Eastern North Carolina schools during the Depression.
While the Woman’s Club was not as active during the 1940s wartime years, members picked up the baton for community improvements in future years.
In 1947, and club began a project to restore the Old Burying Ground, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
1950s to 1990s
In 1957, the club originated the Beaufort Old Homes Tour, a highly popular attraction that continues today and brings thousands of visitors to the area.
The first tour featured five historic homes and The Old Burying Ground, and proceeds went to Beaufort High School for the installation of shower stalls in the school gymnasium.
In 1969, the club designed a colorful Beaufort town seal to represent the town’s historic past. Beaufort town commissioners adopted the design, and it continues in use today.
In the 1970s, the Woman’s Club supported urban renewal and campaigned for the successful passage of a 1971 bond referendum that led to the transformation of Beaufort’s waterfront.
In 1972, the club sponsored, designed and presented to the town a Beaufort town flag design that is still used today.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the club held a multi-year fundraising drive to purchase equipment in the physical therapy department of Carteret General Hospital, which is now Carteret Health Care.
It also donated playground equipment, audio-visual equipment and computers for student use at Beaufort Elementary School.
In 1981, seeing future landfill problems, the Beaufort Woman’s Club’s conversation committee addressed the need for recycling.
They appeared before the Beaufort Board of Commissioners and after 10 years of lobbying, and seeking and receiving support from other clubs in town, the plan became a reality.
The first recycling curbside pickup took place the first week in December 1991 with the help of the club distributing 18-gallon green containers to residents.
In the 1990s, the club continued its focus on education and the arts. It provided $1,000 scholarships to the Sallie Cotton Scholarship Fund for East Carteret High School women students. The club also made financial contributions to the East Carteret High School Marching Mariners Band to participate in two national parades and to the East Carteret High School Chorale for travel to a performance in New York.
The club also donated new sound system equipment to the East Carteret High School Chorus and Drama Club, and it helped refurbish the art room at Beaufort Middle School.
In 1994, club members voted on a major project to restore the train station.
After two years of raising $200,000 and construction, the renovated depot was dedicated on Oct. 27, 1996. It has been used for town government and county government meetings, and it’s available to organizations such as the Woman’s Clubm which meets there.
2000 to present
From 2000 to 2005, the club raised money for numerous community organizations, such as the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, the Beaufort Boys & Girls Club, hospice, the N.C. Aquariums and Beaufort Elementary School.
The club also supported Hurricane Katrina victims and the Down East Food Bank.
In 2005, club members voted to raise $100,000 to purchase the historical Ward-Hancock House, circa. 1726 (First Custom House). This purchase would enable the house, a “living” museum, to become part of the Old Beaufort Village being envisioned by the N.C. Maritime Museum at Gallant’s Channel.
Fundraising efforts continued for several years, and on Aug. 6, 2010, the club officially presented the house to the N.C. Maritime Museum at a ceremony held on the site.
In 2008, the club increased to $2,000 the amounts of scholarships for deserving East Carteret High School graduates and it supported the Beaufort Boys & Girls Club and communities in schools of Carteret County, as well as other local organizations.
Since 2009, the club has conducted an annual art auction to purchase art supplies in seven Beaufort and Down East schools.
Since 2012, the club has supported the Good Samaritan School in Beaufort, Haiti, by funding salaries for teachers, a new bridge to help children access their school, construction of portions of the new school and needed supplies. The N.C. General Federation of Women’s Clubs honored the club for the Haiti project.
In 2014, the club financially supported the restoration of the 1821 Purvis Chapel. In addition, it spearheaded efforts and succeeded in having Beaufort designated as the first Heart Safe Community in North Carolina.
During 2014-15, the club initiated a student arts competition for Croatan, West Carteret and East Carteret high schools, and hosted the District 8 Arts Festival.
The club also conducted several fundraising events to support community groups such as the Boys & Girls Club of Beaufort, East Carteret High School’s Consumer Science Department and Family Promise of Carteret County.
In 2015-16, the club held its second Carteret County High School Arts Competition, and through an auction for the arts, it raised $5,000 for the arts programs at eight area elementary, middle and high schools.
It awarded two $1,000 scholarships to senior East Carteret High School women, and supported the Good Samaritan School in Beaufort, Haiti, the Persecuted Christians Fund of Samaritans Purse, Boys & Girls Club of Beaufort, the East Carteret High School Family and Consumer Science Department and the N.C. Maritime Museum.
The club also made a $1,000 donation for signage at the new Peer Recovery Center.
Through a newly formed grants committee, the club also awarded $6,700 to nine local organizations: Family Promise, The Bridge Downeast Ramsey Center, Beaufort Middle School Special Needs Class Expansion, Carteret County Community Theatre, Olde Beaufort Farmers’ Market, Project Superhero ENC, Beaufort Lion’s Club, Eagle Scout Project and the Beaufort Historical Association.