CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — One of the area’s longstanding dedicated service organizations is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; a milestone that was scheduled to be commemorated Wednesday June 2 by Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett.
The Southern Saratoga County Women’s Club (SSCWC) was formed in January 1971 with a goal of furthering an interest in the education, social, and cultural conditions of the southern Saratoga County community by undertaking and completing various service projects that improve the community through personal involvement.
Unless one is tightly tuned in to the non-publicized activities going on each week in the greater community, they might overlook the club’s involvement. One effort though is very well known in the community, its annual Antique Show and Sale held each February in Shenendehowa High School East.
After postponing it for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, the club is looking forward to holding it once again in 2022. It will be the 45th year for the show.
“That’s our biggest fundraiser each year,” said club president Judy Kaiser. “It’s very popular. The money we generate from that by renting to the vendors and the sale of our cooking and baking allows us to make donations and personally serve many other organizations.”
A list of past projects and current projects is a long one. Through the years the SSCWC has lent its support to establishing the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library on Cemetery Road, getting the YMCA to come to the area by holding a stakeholders meeting to discuss the need, lending volunteer support to CAPTAIN at CAPTAIN’s Treasures, Cheryl’s Lodge, and packing the organization’s summer lunches, supporting the Domestic Violence Shelter in Saratoga (now known as Wellspring) with hands-on room decorating, holding Shen’s After-the-Prom parties, sponsoring a youngster to attend Camp Colby the NYS DEC’s environmental camp in the Adirondacks, volunteering at the Shenendehowa Helping Hands Food Pantry and St. Anne’s Institute in Albany, roadside cleanups, and providing made-from-scratch on-site dinners at the Ronald McDonald House.
Service projects the club continues to support to this day include CAPTAIN’s Thanksgiving Baskets, CAPTAIN’s Adopt-A-Child Program for Christmas, scholarships or awards for students, soliciting entries from teachers for the Arts and Creative Contests sponsored by the New York State Federation of Women’s Clubs, Boscov’s promotion Friends Helping Friends, the Children’s Museum of Saratoga, and philanthropic distribution of club funds to other non-profits.
Francine Rodger, along with Mary Jean Tedrow and several other women, was a founding member of the club. Rodger was also a founding member of the Latham Women’s Club which had a number of members who lived in Clifton Park and Halfmoon.
Recalling the era, Roger said there were a number of obstacles preventing women from joining a club in the southern Saratoga County area and a club that was easy to join was needed.
“The problem for a lot of women here was, if you weren’t married to someone in an organization that had an auxiliary, or were active in a church, lived in a development with an HOA, or gardened there was no club for you to belong to,” she said. “We wanted one that accepted everybody, including single women who lived on a street, didn’t belong to a church, and didn’t garden.”
Ann Gehres is a 50 year member of the club. She joined very shortly after its formation.
After noting many of the service projects the club had undertaken during the years she recalled how club members held bake sales, garage sales, and published three cookbooks when the club members were younger.
“We’ve done so many things through the years and then there was the social side of being a club member; we had bowling parties, pizza parties, potluck dinners, progressive dinners, hay rides, square dances, Halloween parties, Monte Carlo nights, and went to theater performances together,” she said.
These days outside of the Antique Show Gehres said the club is more of a philanthropic organization but members still continue to do some hands-on projects, like CAPTAIN’s Thanksgiving Baskets and Adopt-A-Child.
“We have 21 or 22 members and there’s certainly a need for new blood, younger members,” she said.
Jo-Ann Levy, a 38-year club member, recalled a few of the projects she worked on like preparing a meal for the community members who were constructing Castle Park behind the ice rink, wallpapering a bedroom wall and a toy room at a safe house for women fleeing violent conditions, and cooking and baking for the Antique Show.
“I was pregnant with my third child and found out about the club from a neighbor,” she said. “It’s really about getting together. That’s why when I was president I instituted going to lunch once a month. I wanted to make sure we did something together that was fun once a month. We have some younger members but we need to get some more to join.”
Kathy Barsheid, a 47-year club member, was chairwoman of the Antique Show and Sale for many years as well as a member of the club’s Ways and Means Committee. She agreed with Gehres and Levy as to the need for new members.
“Of course you want new blood,” she said matter-of-factly. “The more the merrier. If you have more people then you can do more things.”
Barsheid joined the SSCWC because she had two sisters-in-law who were two of its founders. After being home with her children for a few years she was looking for a way to do some volunteering.
Asked why she has continued her membership she noted that she’s very proud of the club and what it has done and continues to do and she wants to continue to contribute and help the community. She also made note of the friendships she’s made there.
“I met many of my best friends in the club,” Barsheid said. “We are a very close-knit group because we’re so small.”
As with the others she recalled bowling parties, lunches, pizza parties, and potluck dinners.
“We were always doing something once a month,” she said.
Francine Rodger, one of the club’s founders, views the 50th anniversary as astounding.
“It’s a remarkable achievement for a volunteer organization to raise money, do programs, and continue to support the community over 50 years,” she said. “It’s a great group; I’m glad it’s still going.”
The club meets the second Thursday of each month at the Rexford Volunteer Fire Department in Rexford. There are no meetings held in July, August, and December.
To contact the club, email Judy Kaiser at: email@example.com