By CYNTHIA G. ROBERTSON
This year is a stand-out for a La Mesa organization that has always made a remarkable influence upon the community. At 119 years, the La Mesa Women’s Club (LMWC) is still standing strong as the members celebrate the anniversary.
For the first time in 14 months, LMWC had its first in-person gathering on May 17 to celebrate the anniversary. Fifty-seven people, including several men, attended the happy event.
Andrew Hayes, district director for Sen. Brian Jones, was one of the many local dignitaries commending LMWC for its years of service.
“If there was a tagline I could assign to the La Mesa Women’s Club, it would be: ‘A legacy of service,’” Hayes said.
Indeed, it has taken the efforts of many strong women to keep the club in the forefront for more than a century. Betsy Quinn, co-president with Kathy Tinsley, has been a member of the club since 2012. Together they have co-presided since 2019.
Typically a board serves for two years, but the impending clubhouse sale as well as the pandemic helped them determine to continue into 2021.
LMWC first vice president Sandi Phoenix has been associated with Women’s Clubs for 51 years. She joined Allied Gardens Junior Woman’s Club first, then transferred to La Mesa Junior Women’s Cub when her family moved to East County. In 1979, she graduated into the general membership of La Mesa Women’s Club.
As first vice president, Phoenix primarily oversees philanthropic projects, which is one of the major missions of the club, and the writing of the annual end-of-the-year service and federation advancement reports. She also writes articles each month in the monthly newsletter, Gavel Talk, to report on past service projects.
“The position of first vice president is a busy position,” said Phoenix. “It is one that I enjoy because it provides opportunities to be involved with everything going on in the club, and to be a liaison between the club and community organizations and programs.”
Phoenix has always had women’s clubs in her life, starting when she was a high school student. As a member of the San Bernardino Women’s Club, her mother often drafted Quinn to provide luncheon serving duties or set-up and clean-up duties for the club.
“I feel like I just grew up in women’s clubs,” she said.
Early on, just as now, the purpose of women’s clubs was to provide socialization and friendships along with the mission of providing charitable community service.
Quinn explained that some of LMWC’s older members had joined primarily to play bridge. For decades, ladies met weekly to form foursomes, play cards, and socialize. But with the current limitations due to the pandemic, games have been curtailed. In addition, a number of women have passed on or have grown quite old. Several ladies do not drive any longer, so attending events is more complicated.
“Fortunately we have been able to attract some younger, healthier members who have joined in our projects with a positive community spirit,” Quinn said.
This combination of professionalism with strong socialization has made for many close friendships with a diverse group of women and all walks of life.
“These strong ties along with my many close friendships with a diverse group of women are my reasons for staying a member for 51 years,” Phoenix said.
Quinn has similar sentiments. She said that the benefits of membership in a service organization like the LMWC are many. The group of 37 women is diverse and mostly retired from a wide variety of careers.
“We have interests in supporting causes related to children, education, health, military, environment, safety, animals, local history and women’s issues, Quinn said. “While working in education, I found most of my companions were in the same profession as mine. Meeting intelligent women from different careers has been enlightening and has expanded my perspective. Sharing time with others to make a difference for good is both satisfying and fun.”
After she retired from her 37-year career in education, Quinn found that she was not satisfied without a focused sense of purpose. Through LMWC, Quinn has organized fundraising activities and service projects that address some of the area’s pressing issues. She has also served on the scholarship committee, which annually receives applications from outstanding seniors in the Grossmont High School District. For more than 40 years, LMWC has awarded five $1,000 scholarships each year to outstanding high school seniors.
Phoenix explained that women’s clubs also provide leadership training and skills that she has utilized in various chairmanships and officer positions within the club districts.
“These skills have also provided a strong resource for me to draw from during my 20 years working as a registered nurse. The women’s club has helped me to grow as a person,” she said.
Both Phoenix and Quinn recognize that in order for LMWC to stay strong and growing, the women have to learn flexibility and adaptability. The pandemic, of course, gave them all unprecedented opportunity. That, and the fact tat the clubhouse went up for sale kept them busy even during this past crisis year.
Because of the pandemic, the clubhouse was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The lack of rental money coming in added to financial problems for the club. Currently, the clubhouse is in escrow.
“The club does not yet have a new building and truly have not addressed whether or not another clubhouse is wanted in the future. Thanks to the club’s history in La Mesa since 1902, the members have options in the community for meeting sites,” Phoenix explained. “We also have strong ties to many community programs and charitable organizations, and a wealth of service guidance from our federation. LMWC will never run out of things to do and will continue to go forth in a strong and professional way.”
Besides, change is not always a bad thing as Quinn sees it, explaining that any healthy organization must experience change and the accompanying growing pains.
“Our clubhouse has been closed for over a year, which has resulted in a lack of revenue — it was a popular rental — as well as an inability to conduct large meetings. The eventual sale of the property, which we have owned since the 1950’s, will mean meetings in a new location,” she said. “We have already changed our focus to participate in worthwhile events that allow us to follow COVID guidelines. For example, we formed teams to walk outdoors with masks and social distance in support of charities like ALS and the San Diego Humane Society. We will present our five scholarships at virtual awards assemblies at our local high schools. Zoom meetings have definitely kept us on track to conduct business as well as to connect with our members virtually.”
However, there is one thing that Quinn, Phoenix and other members of the LMWC are looking forward to: “Returning to person-to-person activities,” Phoenix said.
Together, with the larger community, the women of this club will make that happen. There’s no better time than right now for interested women to join the club.
— A journalist and photographer for more than 30 years, Cynthia G. Robertson is the author of
Where You See Forever, a novel set in San Diego about finding a home for the heart. She also authors a blog at Shutterbug Angel, a unique visual devotional attesting to the everyday miracles and beauty she sees in nature around her. She is currently working on other books. See more of Cynthia’s work and order her book at www.cynthiarobertson.com.