Maywood Woman’s Club in Corning
By Melissa Mendonca
HerStory of Service
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Ronda Alvey
ONLY ONE BUILDING in Corning stands on the National Register of Historic Places, but its history is as strong as the Suffragettes who built it. The 1910 Craftsman-style home at 902 Marin Street continues today in its original mission as a clubhouse for the Maywood Woman’s Club. While the projects of the organization have changed a bit over time, they still remain dedicated to the needs of the Corning community and fellowship of area women.
“I joined because my mother had been a member,” says Jenell Cook, president of the club and member since 2008. “I respected what they did, respected their history and wanted to see it continue. I was always working when she was a member so I wasn’t able to go to meetings. It’s kind of a legacy thing we were never able to do together.”
Secretary/Historian Toni Lima concurs. “I was invited by a long-term member to join the club,” she says. “I love the history of not only the club but the larger organizations.” Those larger organizations are the California Federation of Women’s Clubs and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, both of which the local group joined in 1902. The latter, organized in 1890, is still the largest and oldest women’s volunteer organization in the world.
In the early days, Maywood Woman’s Club members started and housed the Maywood Colony Library, the precursor to today’s public library, and campaigned for a new high school. Success there took them to a campaign for an elementary school and then creation of the Corning Cemetery Association. They also championed women’s right to vote.
Today, when elections roll around, the Maywood Woman’s Club advocates for participation. “We encourage all members to vote. As women we need to vote,” says Lima. “These ladies paid in blood for that right.” Lima is also the corresponding secretary for the California Federation of Women’s Clubs and attends statewide gatherings.
Current membership of the Maywood Woman’s Club hovers around 30 and ranges in activity from support of local cancer patients, veterans, the local domestic violence shelter and student scholarships to Operation Smile, an international endeavor repairing cleft lip and cleft palate.
“I’m the international outreach chairman,” says Cook. “Our main project is Operation Smile. We do a lot of sewing for them. We sew a lot of quilts, therapy dolls and goodie bags for each child.”
In fact, the sewers of the group get in gear for many worthy projects, including placemats for the Christmas meals of the Corning Senior Center, and twin-sized bed quilts and turtle pillows for children attending Turtle Camp through the Hole in the Wall Gang founded by Paul Newman. Any fleece scraps left over from the projects get sewn into doggie blankets for Second Chance Pet Rescue in Corning.
There’s room for those who knit and crochet as well, as members contribute to the Knit Your Bit project at the World War II Museum in New Orleans. The initiative began at the museum in 2006 and has distributed more than 50,000 handmade scarves to veterans across the country.
Also close to the hearts of members is a project to carefully cut out embroidered stars from retired United States flags to give to veterans and their family members on Memorial Day at the Veterans Hall. “It was very emotional,” says Cook. The stars are given with a card that reads, “I was once part of an American flag. I once flew over America, the land of the free because of the brave. I can no longer fly. The sun and wind have caused me to be tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.”
A long-standing project with renewed interest since the Camp and Carr fires is the Penny Pines Project, which promotes reforestation and conservation of our national forests. A $68 donation will plant an acre of trees and the club has been ramping up its contributions in the wake of the fires. “When a member passes we’ll do a memorial for Penny Pines,” says Cook, noting that they are making general donations as well.
The group’s major fundraiser, a series of bake sales, also turns out to be a form of community service. “Customers say they’re coming to do their Christmas baking,” laughs Lima, of the holiday bake sale. “Jenell’s peanut brittle sells out quickly.”
Encouraging each woman who walks into the Maywood Woman’s Club is a bas-relief by George Julian Zolnay called A Woman’s Purpose as well as a medallion of the American Women’s League under the eaves. “It gives you a sense of community,” says Lima of the building and the club. “We’re all working toward the betterment of where we live and the world. We’re part of the larger scheme of things.” •
Maywood Woman’s Club • 902 Marin St., Corning
Pictured on page 67: Back row- left to right: Helen Fultz, Ruby Rogers, Ramona Williams, Bobbie Wilkins, Becky Lima, Roberta Hemping, Pauline Arnold, Julie Horne, Rebecca Callan and Wini Peterson.Front row - left to right: Connie Uhyrek, Toni Lima, Jenell Cook and Carol Brown. Pictured above: Toni Lima and Julie Horne.