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Child Health Association of Sewickley marks 90th anniversary

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:03 p.m.
Sewickley Herald
Child Health Association of Sewickley 90th anniversary celebration co-chair Peggy Bowles, at left, along with historian and past president Janet Kovac, board member Emily Shipley and president Elisa DiTommaso sort through old photos and newspaper clippings at the Child Health office Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, that will be displayed during the organization's anniversary celebration. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
The Sewickley Child Health Association was organized by a group of young women interested in child welfare, including, from left, Mrs. William Doolittle, Nancy Doyle, Amy Dodge and Harriet Ramsburg, who are pictured in 1935 — a dozen years after the group was founded. Submitted
The Child Health Association of Sewickley has offered vision and dental screenings for children over the years. Submitted
The Child Health Association of Sewickley has helped provide children with dental and vision screenings over its 90-year history. Submitted
Sewickley Herald
Child Health Association of Sewickley historian and past president Janet Kovac, at left, and 90th anniversary celebration co-chair Peggy Bowles sort through old photos at the Child Health office Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, which will be displayed during the organization's anniversary celebration. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald

One of Martha Smith's most memorable moments as a member of the Child Health Association of Sewickley involved a black bear.

Smith had prepared food to be featured at an Ohio television station as a way to promote the organization's Three Rivers Cookbook III.

The black bear also was going to be on the show that day, and, when he was was led past Smith's food table, he stopped to take a sniff. Smith backed up, wondering what would happen if the bear broke free.

That was one of the few experiences that probably won't be recorded in the history files that now are being organized to help commemorate the organization's 90th anniversary today, Feb. 14.

“There have been about a thousand women who passed through the organization in those 90 years, and there are more than 60 years worth of boxes and boxes of information,” said Janet Kovac, past president of the association, historian and member since 1997.

Some of the compiled information also will be displayed at the 90th anniversary celebration, which will be held April 6 at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley Heights.

Also to commemorate the anniversary, the organization recently presented a $5,000 check to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to purchase milk, which is how the group got started.

The group's first project was making sure fresh milk was supplied to every area elementary school child, Kovac said.

While looking through the boxes at the organization's office on Ohio River Boulevard in Glen Osborne, Kovac said she discovered that the organization also was involved in the area's first water fluoridation project in the 1940s. Members pushed fluoride treatments in 18 schools.

In the earlier years, they also volunteered many hours to Sewickley Valley Hospital, now known as Heritage Valley Sewickley hospital. Since 1923, the organization has donated close to $4 million to more than 350 organizations or projects to help children.

Over the years, the women also have raised funds by publishing four cookbooks that have won several awards; performed plays; hosted balls, rummage sales, plant sales, carnivals, house tours, antique shows and golf tournaments; and organized an amateur Golden Glove Boxing Tournament boxing match at Sewickley Valley YMCA.

One of the most intense fundraising projects the organization pulled together was the first Three Rivers Cookbook.

Mary Ann Riley, who joined the association in 1972 and now is an associate member living in Florida, remembers the time well. Each of the 1,400 submitted recipes, which were narrowed down to 295, were typed up by members and then prepared, tested, rated on a scale of 1 to 5 and voted on by all members. The organization raised $12,500 to publish the book through a trunk sale of tennis dresses and donations from H.J. Heinz Co. and a local resident.

The project began in February 1973 and was published in November that year. A total of 462,500 copies of the first cookbook have been sold. It was featured in the Ladies' Home Journal, sold at Horne's department store and could be found in book stores throughout the U.S. Three more cookbooks followed.

The association now provides funds and books for children through the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, which represents the best interests of children in the courtroom and other settings.

Linda Schobert, a member since 2001, said CHAOS gives grants in the fall and spring first meeting with each organization before funding any project.

During the spring cycle, 16 requests have been made.

“It really opens your eyes to the need out there,” Schobert said.

Smith agreed.

“It makes you wonder what would happen if we didn't give.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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