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McKnight Women's Club continues to thrive after 60 years

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Beth Seiler of Ross Township leafs through a scrapbook of photos and other items from the McKnight Women's Club's 60-year history in March 2014 at her home. She is the group's program director.
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The McKnight Women's Club had a saloon-themed booth at the 1958 Country Festival, held in the parking lot of the North Hills Village shopping center in Ross Township. The booth featured a piano player and singing and dancing. The participants called themselves the Last Chance Lovelies,
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Memorabilia from the McKnight Women's Club's 60-year history will be part of the club's March 27, 2014, meeting. The club formed in 1954.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Beth Seiler of Ross Township shows off some photos from the McKnight Women's Club's 60-year history in March 2014 at her home. She is the group's program director.
Submitted
The McKnight Women’s Club won first place for its Hawaii-themed booth at the 1959 Country Festival, held in the parking lot of the North Hills Village shopping center.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Beth Seiler of Ross Township finds herself in a photo of the McKnight Women's Club's 50th-anniversary celebration while looking at club scrapbooks in her home in March 2014. This year, the club, for which Seiler is program director, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Memorabilia from the McKnight Women's Club's 60-year history will be part of the club's March 27, 2014, meeting. The club formed in 1954.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
The McKnight Women's Club used to organize a Miss McKnight Village pageant. Memorabilia showing the club's 60-year history will be part of the club's March 27, 2014, meeting.
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McKnight Women's Club members had this photo taken to promote an accessory fashion show decades ago.

Members of the McKnight Women's Club say this is not your grandmother's women's club and credit its 60 years of success on its ability to adapt to modern women's needs.

While the heyday of women's clubs has long passed, the McKnight Women's Club in Ross Township has remained a stronghold in the community.

“We're still around because we've been able to adapt and stay relevant to younger women.” said Beth Seiler, the club's program director.

The club's 60th, or diamond, anniversary is this year, and members plan to reflect on club history with photos and scrapbooks at the March 27 meeting and have a jeweler there to appraise members' antique jewelry.

The McKnight Women's Club was founded in 1954 by a group of 32 stay-at-home mothers in the McKnight Village plan who were interested in social opportunities and providing community service. In its early years, the club focused on construction of a playground at McKnight Village and a three-week summer camp for local children. It eventually opened up to women across the township.

In its first year, annual dues were $3. Activities in the club's first two decades included luncheons, baking for children at the Lawnvue Acres Children's Home and a Miss McKnight Village beauty pageant for teenagers who lived in the neighborhood, which consists of more than 40 homes.

Nancy Weckley, 74, of Ross said that when she joined the club in the early 1970s, it was a lunchtime club made up of stay-at-home mothers.

“It (was) mothers who brought their children, who stayed with baby sitters,” Weckley said. “It was good for us mothers to get out and socialize.”

Weckley said women took turns bringing the lunch each month and largely focused on activities that involved children.

In the 1950s, a women's club was one of the few civic groups in which women participated, said Peter Charbonneau, director of communications for the General Federation of Women's Clubs, a Washington-based organization that acts as an umbrella for more than 3,000 women's clubs across the country.

“There's so much opportunity now,” Charbonneau said.

The McKnight club currently has about 100 members, which, Seiler said, consistently has been its size for the past several decades.

She said women in the club range in age from their 20s to 90s.

Charbonneau said membership in women's clubs across the country has been declining for several decades, and a 100-member club in 2014 is large.

The McKnight Women's Club still maintains the McKnight Village playground, which was rebuilt in the 1990s, and holds the annual summer day camp, but it has added other annual activities such as a scholarship competition, spaghetti dinner and 5K race. The race will be June 8 this year and will raise money to maintain the playground.

The club raises money for or volunteers for a different charity each month.

Seiler, of Ross, said most women in the club now work. Meetings have been split between daytime and evening to accommodate working women and feature a program, craft or speaker. Dues are $15 a year.

“Now, I think it's even more important for mothers to get involved and get to know other mothers,” said Seiler, noting that members help each other with car pools and in emergency situations.

“I really enjoy being a member because of some of the long-term friendships,” she said.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at kshea@tribweb.com or at 724-772-6353.

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