Profiles in Service

Written by clubwoman Shirley C. Belcher in the Fall of 1991.

The sound of spoons stirring tea in fragile china cups provided the background for five interested women, seated around a kitchen table, to discuss plans for trying to organize a woman’s club in the Town of Grundy in Buchanan County, Virginia, during the late summer of 1947. All kinds of growth was beginning in the area, and problems needing women’s attention abounded. Feeling there could be might in numbers, the ladies began to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work!

Organization began to take shape – an appeal to other ladies to join in was made at churches, PTAs, sports events, in the newspaper, and by telephone. (Local radio stations and television were not yet in existence in Grundy at the time.) Leadership of this activity was assumed by Mrs. William P. Becker (Martha), who called the organizational meeting. She was elected its first President; Mrs. C.F. Neel (Pauline), first Vice President; Mrs. Mason Woodworth (Bessie), Secretary; and Mrs. F.B. Fowler (Gaynell), Treasurer. The group joined the Virginia Federation in 1947 and the General Federation in 1948. The club has sixty-two (62) charter members.

As the “show got on the road” of being organized club women, the group became a driving force for goals they had set. Their immediate one was a clean-up campaign – sidewalks, courthouse square and river banks. On their way to a meeting in the courthouse, their ire had been raised when a snake crawled from the weeds by the sidewalk and faced them squarely. They promptly sought the help of the County Board of Supervisors and Town Council – to say nothing of their demands to their husbands for action through the area of Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs.

Through the years of service of this woman’s club, it never ceases to amaze us at the diverse activities we have sponsored and supported in community betterment projects and the fundraising events for causes, special drives and club projects. Annually, we have supported the budgeted projects of the [GFWC Virginia], GFWC, as well as on an area basis the Red Cross, Cancer Society, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, CARE, Multiple Sclerosis, March of Dimes (birth defects), American Heart Association, Easter Seals, Operation Smile, International Book Project, Adopt a Teacher, Mountain Mission School, and a host of others. Since the administration of Ginger Robertson (1982-1984), the club has sponsored a full one-year scholarship to Southwest Virginia Community College. This continues to be a priority objective of the club, and each year, a deserving Buchanan County student is granted this scholarship.

Various projects have been done to raise funds over the years. These have included spaghetti dinners served to the community, hat shows, bake sales, door-to-door selling of various items such as gift wrapping paper, note paper, table mats, as well as auction sales. Our greatest fundraisers have been the sales of chances for handmade, cross-stitch quilts made by members. The winner is chosen and announced at a public drawing. The quilt projects have been a major source of revenue for the scholarship to [SWCC]. It is estimated that as much as $750,000 has been raised and contributed to the community and other worthwhile projects by the club and through joint efforts of other civic organizations. All has been with joy, happiness and close fellowship with all groups for the common goal of it is “well for us to have passed this way.”

The Grundy Woman’s Club actively participated in the GFWC cookbook project during 1988-1990. Many club members submitted recipes for possible inclusion in this cookbook. Mrs. Earl Dellinger (Dorothy), a very active and loyal member for over 30 years, was honored by having her recipe, “Tropical Chicken Salad,” selected to be included. The club sold many copies of this cookbook and received a special congratulatory call upon this accomplishment. A copy of this book is being donated to the county library in memory of deceased members.

Before “Save the Earth” was a national goal, Grundy women were vitally involved with our environment. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, we were living through a special period of economic and industrial growth with the development of our great natural resource abundant in our area – COAL – and our women found themselves faced with decisions affecting corporate development. The first came as a result of the timely actions of the Grundy Junior Club. Incensed by the adverse and uncomplimentary publicity being given to Buchanan County, and with which they were faced at a seminar in Richmond on practices being used in strip-mining for which leaders were seeking legislative action to control, the club women invited their adversaries to be their guests for a personally conducted tour of Buchanan County for an on-sight review of the true working conditions and management practices. Mr. F.B. Fowler (Boyd), a local mine owner/operator, the husband of our member, Gaynell Fowler, personally arranged air transportation and hosted a guided tour of coal-producing areas to the state group of visitors. This event was a positive reward for local club women. As the delegation spoke here and on their return to their communities, they expressed their amazement at the unfounded information previously given to them, resulting in their criticisms. Through the years since, the area has benefitted in so many ways from the development of the coal industry, resulting in residential areas, airports, parks, ballfields, and perhaps most of all, experimental agricultural projects conducted by the Agricultural Department of VPI [Virginia Polytechnical Institute, now known as Virginia Tech] in Blacksburg, Virginia. New crops on a commercial basis could be the next growth development.

Another project attacked by women was DIRT – the dust that blew from the loaded coal trucks as they travelled our highways from the mining area to the loading docks of the railroad area. Becoming “put out” with their never-ending cleaning chores around their homes from the coal dust in the air, to say nothing of the breathing problems being created, the women began their appeals to those in authority for some control of the problem – and requested that an ordinance be enacted by the Board of Supervisors to require a cover over these loaded trucks. It is now history as to the success of pleas of women and many, many civic groups, as we have seen the enactment of a statewide law requiring the covering of all kinds of such materials being transported by trucks. Progress does come from small beginnings, and women can make a difference!

Progress does come from small beginnings, and women can make a difference!

Cultural contributions to our community sponsored and/or arranged by our club have been outstanding and varied. The Barter Theatre, the Virginia State Theater located in Abingdon, Virginia, has presented many productions in our local high school, sponsored and promoted the Art Mobile of the Virginia Museums of Fine Arts several times, with our club women making all arrangements and serving as hostesses. With the cooperation of the School Board, it has been possible for students of all area schools to view the exhibits.

One of the most outstanding projects of the Fine Arts Department has been the sponsoring and promotion of a countywide Student Art Show at the local public library. The shows were promoted for all ages and all medias of painting and sculpture. Entries by the students were judged by established people in their fields, with ribbons and cash awards provided by the club. More than a hundred entries have been viewed by hundreds of library visitors. Winners of these shows have been entered in district- and/or [GFWC Virginia]-sponsored events.

Probably one of our greatest projects as a club was as one of the sponsors for the establishment of our Buchanan County Public Library. In 1961, this library became a reality. The library has a collection of approximately 65,000 volumes, with a yearly circulation of about 139,500. Emphasis is now being placed on the accumulation of historical writing of records of the early history of Buchanan County. Many natives of the county are published authors in fiction and history, and through private donations, a large collection of these original writings is being established in the library.

The Grundy club has been the recipient of many awards and certificates of merit from the district and state, as well as many national organizations. Since 1980, when a permanent file of these was begun, the club has received approximately fifty (50) citations. No record could be determined for the years prior to that date.

And so, dear friends, we don our fashionable hats and stylish suits as we roll up our sleeves to work another forty years as members of the Grundy Woman’s Club.

Our club has had many members to serve as district chairmen, on district committees, and Mrs. Ginger Robertson, a past president of our club, has served as [GFWC Virginia] Southwestern District President, [GFWC Virginia] Committee Member, and [GFWC Virginia] Vice Chairman as a junior. At the last presiding meeting of the Southwestern District, the members of our club presented to her a quilt they had been secretly making – each square depicting some experience of her life, work and service.

In 1988, the club sponsored a 40th anniversary luncheon celebration, honoring former presidents and living charter members. Twenty-seven (27) charter members were still living, of whom seven (7) were past presidents. The living past presidents included: Mrs. William P. Becker (Martha Jane), Logan, West Virginia; Mrs. Carl F. Neel (Pauline), Mt. Crawford, Virginia; Mrs. Mason H. Woodworth (Bessie), Bradenton, Florida; Mrs. F.B. Fowler (Gaynell), Grundy, Virginia; Mrs. Ralph Watkins (Ruth), Grundy, Virginia; Mrs. E.M. Bane (Elizabeth), Grundy, Virginia; and Mrs. E.E. Dixon (Virginia), Grundy, Virginia. Other charter members attending included: Mrs. Scott Shaffer (Amanda), Abingdon, Virginia; Mrs. Frank Zimmerman (Lucille), Bluefield, West Virginia; Mrs. W.G. Parish (Edna), Grundy, Virginia; Mrs. W.B. Quigley (Mary), Grundy, Virginia; and Mrs. Early White (Mazie), Grundy, Virginia.

An honor for our club during these years was an event in April 1958, when Mrs. R.G. Boatwright (Cynthia) installed her only daughter, Mrs. Frank Spraker (Virginia), as president of our club. Mrs. Boatwright was the first woman of Southwest Virginia (Coeburn) to serve as president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Virginia. She used her [GFWC Virginia] President’s pin to pin on her daughter in the Installation Service. Our club has been richly blessed by Virginia’s continued service, as she has worked and loyally supported the many projects of the club, including serving as president for a second term from 1988-1990.

As of the time of this historical review in the fall of 1991, we especially recognize one of our charter members – Mrs. V.C. Smith (Kate) – who is now 103 years of age and still lives in our community. During her many years of active club participation, she was one of our outstanding blue ribbon winners many times with her exhibits of her fine needlework in the Crafts Division. Her ribbons won awards on the local, district and state levels. Though she is unable to participate in club activities, her alert mind has shared with many members the incidents of former club activities.

Very early in the morning during the term of Mrs. Alvin (Edith) Hunt’s presidency in 1965-1967, she walked into the room to tell her husband goodbye. She was all dressed at that time of day in her newest, “latest fashion” outfit, which included a highly fashionable, tall black hat of luxurious materials. He took one look at her and said, “Well, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, just where are you off to now?” With a quick reply, she said, “To Wytheville, to an important woman’s club meeting and I’ll see you tonight.”

And so, dear friends, we don our fashionable hats and stylish suits as we roll up our sleeves to work another forty years as members of the Grundy Woman’s Club.

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