Women's Club with checks

Continuing to give — Representing various nonprofit organizations in West Volusia, recipients show the donations they received May 8, as the DeLand Woman’s Club ended its 112-year-old run and dispersed its assets. From left are Rebecca Castillo, president of the Satellite Beach Woman’s Club, who accepted a donation for Hacienda Girls Ranch, a refuge for troubled teens that is supported by Woman’s Clubs throughout the state; Gary Thomas, who accepted a donation for the West Volusia Humane Society; Mary Gusky, who accepted a donation for Good Samaritan Clinic in DeLand; Donna Jensen, who accepted a donation for  Grace House Pregnancy Resource Center; Karen Ryder, who accepted a donation for the West Volusia Historical Society; and Jan Stevens and Florence Thuot, who accepted a donation for Journey’s End Animal Sanctuary.

When someone dies, we often remind the bereaved that their loved one lives on in the memories of many people.

We might talk about the person’s accomplishments or the positive differences he or she made that will long outlive mere physical presence.

Those comforts apply equally this week in DeLand as we mourn the passing of the DeLand Woman’s Club.

This venerable 112-year-old fell victim to societal shifts that diminished an organization designed originally for women who didn’t work outside the home, and founded at a time when membership in many civic groups was open only to men.

The 17 remaining Woman’s Club members who attended the May 8 Farewell Luncheon should feel no guilt that the organization’s passing happened on their watch. Rather, they should be commended for their tenacity in holding out so long and for continuing to get so much done even as their numbers waned.

And, along with every DeLand resident, these women should feel tremendous pride in the contributions to our community made by the Woman’s Club of DeLand. Certainly these accomplishments and positive differences have helped shape our community as it is today, and will long outlive the existence of an actual club.

As DeLand Mayor Robert Apgar pointed out in his luncheon remarks, it would be impossible to count the lives touched in a positive way by the work of the DeLand Woman’s Club.

Whether through its establishment of a “charity ward” at DeLand’s hospital, its work to establish and support libraries, or its successful push to add kindergartens to the public schools, it is certain that, locally and nationally, the Woman’s Club has enriched and even saved lives.

This organization’s history is one worth honoring and certainly remembering. We thank the West Volusia Historical Society, which has agreed to preserve important Woman’s Club historical documents.

And we salute the Woman’s Club, too, for creating and maintaining those careful records, busy as they were raising funds for scholarships, supporting young women through the Hacienda Girls Ranch and other charities, and convincing governments to work for the people. 

For more than a century, the Woman’s Club of DeLand has shown us, as the mayor said, “a shining example of leadership.”

They saw problems, they worked together, they lobbied those in power for change, and they made things better.

That, truly, is a legacy that cannot die.