Van Wert Woman’s Club President Nancy Farmer (in yellow) hands over the keys to the clubhouse on S. Washington St. to Michele Mooney (in black), YWCA board chair on Tuesday, July 6, as a part of the transfer of assets. Looking on for the Woman’s Club is Jean Owens, Dottie Shaffner, and Joyce Brant. Representing the YWCA with Mooney was Jill Leatherman, Danni Chiles, Jamie Evans, and Kim Keeling. (Times Bulletin/Kirk Dougal)
BY KIRK DOUGAL
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT - One long-time Van Wert County organization is closing its doors but still found one last way to give to the community.
As was announced in the Times Bulletin in May, the Van Wert Woman's Club disbanded at the end of June after its 63rd year of existence. The club had decided it was unable to continue with an aging membership and with roll numbers that dwindled a little more each year. On Tuesday, club members announced they were donating their clubhouse on S. Washington St. and remaining cash assets to the Van Wert County YWCA.
Both organizations have been members of the community for a long time. The Woman's Club has played a large part in the cultural history of the county over the decades. It was originally organized in 1946 and consisted of the merger of several smaller clubs. The purpose of the group was to encourage cultural progress by fostering interests in literature, education and the arts. Ellen Reed, the granddaughter of John Sanford Brumback, was the first president of the club.
In the beginning, the members were forced to meet at different locations around the city. But even through the early days, the group had planned for the future, saving some of the funds they had raised to purchase a clubhouse just for them. That opportunity finally arrived in 1967 when Mrs. Charles Woodruff sold them the building located at 654 S. Washington St. The land had originally been purchased by Judge James L. Price in 1865 and the house erected two years later. In the 1980's, the club decided it need more room for various functions so the members enclosed the front porch and redecorated the first floor meeting rooms. Local rumor has always said the 143-year-old home had been gifted to the group by a former club president but the members actually paid for the house through their fund raising efforts.
For its part, the YWCA was established in Van Wert in 1916 through the help of George Marsh. Eventually known as "The House that George Built," the facility on E. Main St. was originally designed as a residence for young women who were leaving the farm life to attend school or find employment in town. That primary service of housing for women never changed over the years although other programs expanded or were created. Now the YWCA Housing Program includes emergency shelter and transitional housing for homeless women and children. The organization has also grown the Summer Food Program into one of the leading such projects in the state. In 2009 alone, nearly 12,000 meals were served to needy children as well as providing free recreation for 10 weeks during the summer.
Although discussions about the transfer had been going on since last December, on Tuesday, Van Wert Woman's Club President Nancy Farmer handed over the keys to representatives from the YWCA.
"This has been a very difficult decision for our club," she said with tears in her eyes, "but it was a necessary one. I want to thank the attorneys, Jill Leatherman, who was the president of the (YWCA) board at the time, and Chuck Koch, whose wife, Karen, was a lifetime member of the club. They made this transition much easier for me and the club. Because of both of our clubs dedication to women's interests and their welfare, it was easy for us to choose the Y to donate our clubhouse and our $20,000 worth of CDs."
Michele Mooney, the YWCA board chair, accepted the donation on behalf of the organization. She said the YWCA had not yet determined how the house would be used but that it would be decided after a new executive director had been hired. She believed that posting would be filled soon, most likely by the end of July.
(To watch a video of interviews with Nancy Farmer and Michele Mooney, please go to www.timesbulletin.com and click on this headline.)