HOWELL – With March being Women’s History Month, this time is being celebrated by one group in town that has a vested interest in the topic.
Marking the social significance of the month, the Howell Women’s Club held their monthly meeting recently with guest speaker Kathleen Doty, who holds the esteemed position of Vice President of the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs (NJSFWC) for the Shore District.
The early incarnation of the Women’s Club found its genesis in 1963 as the Candlewood Garden Club, and operated independently for 10 years before joining the Federation in 1973. As such, 2023 marks its fiftieth year as a member, although it has only been known as the Howell Women’s Club since 1983. As part of the evening’s proceedings, Doty presented the club with a letter from NJSFWC President Shirley Holly and International President Deborah Strahanoski, along with a Fiftieth Anniversary Certificate.
“We do so much,” said Doty regarding the need to honor the milestones of local women’s clubs. “You have your mothers, you have your workers, you have those that belong to organizations to help those in need. You need to have some type of recognition, at least, to keep going and know that you’re appreciated.”
The group currently has 23 members, and while many of the projects they work on are centered around Howell, recruitment is open to individuals who are not necessarily residents of the Township. The current club president is Kelly Cunningham with Margaret Vallaire serving as vice president. The group assembles for their meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at the Tauton School in Howell.
The month of March, along with the recent International Women’s Day on March 8, marks the contribution of women throughout history, as well as highlighting current individuals who are making a difference in the world.
“That women can be recognized as a person,” said Doty about the importance of Women’s History Month, “and [how they’re] giving back to the community. But as a woman, whether you’re in the military or civilian, you just want to have some recognition, and just having [Women’s History Month], it is an honor to all of us.”
The NJSFWC is currently the largest volunteer women’s service organization in the state, and is an associated member of the larger General Federation of Women’s Clubs. While one of their main interests is to provide women with assistance in education, the group has strong in-roads with the township, and is well-known for being advocates and participants in a large variety of community services and activities.
The Federation has a series of member districts around the state but all are involved with the greater cause of working together to improve the lives of others. Among the most significant contributions of the women’s clubs was their key involvement in the founding of the New Jersey College for Women in 1918. Five years of hard work and dedication by the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs led by Mabel Smith Douglass, finally saw the vision come to light. Today, as Douglass College, the institution bears the name of this bold New Jersey women’s advocate.
The talk given by Doty focused on the history of Women’s Clubs and the achievements and progress that they have fostered.
Among other civic concerns, the state’s Women’s Clubs encourage education. The Howell Women’s Club offers the Maryann Gambino Memorial Scholarship to one deserving young woman each year from the Freehold Regional High School District. In addition, the Girl’s Career Institute (GCI) gives students a chance to experience a small slice of college life on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers.
Through various programs, Women’s Clubs can help get professional counseling to those who are in need, as well as collect and distribute groceries, toys, household items, clothing and even gifts for families who are in economic distress. They participate with Meals on Wheels for senior citizens, and even assist with emergency financial aid, by paying rent or utility bills.
Doty also pointed out this year’s special state project, namely, their partnership with the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation (ECF) which assists families in New Jersey with youngsters that are facing difficulty from the disease. The ECF can provide professional in-home counseling, and to date, has assisted over 2,000 families.
Projects change every few years, but in the past, Women’s Clubs in the Garden State have raised money for the Valerie Fund, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Canine Companions for Independence as well as domestic violence shelters in the state.
Upcoming events for the Howell Women’s Club includes Achievement Day on April 17 and their Spring Conference Luncheon at the Lobster Shanty in Point Pleasant on April 18. The group is always welcoming new members, and interested individuals may call the club at 732-773-3692, or visit their Facebook page.