90 years of Suffolk service

Published 8:44 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international women’s organization dedicated to community provident through volunteer service. The GFWC Junto Women’s Club, which has served the greater Suffolk area since its 1927 charter, celebrated 90 years of community service in May.

Junto members met for their May meeting at the Smithfield Station restaurant for a live history lesson on the GFWC. Julie Johnson was dressed in historically accurate costume as the GFWC founder Jane Croly. Junto vice president and program chair Mary Miller was in character as a reporter and interviewed Johnson about Croly’s life.

“I had to do a lot of reading to try and commit it to memory,” Johnson said. “It was about learning how the club had started.”

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Croly founded the GFWC in 1890 to give women the resources and opportunities to make positive changes in their communities. The Junto chapter in Chuckatuck began with just that kind of purpose, when 12 Chuckatuck women organized a book club in 1924 to introduce a circulating library to the community.

That book club continued until its members decided to start focusing on civic and individual betterment in 1926.

“They wanted to work on the needs of the community,” said Junto Woman’s Club president June Felton.

Their first meeting room was a one-room cabin owned by Virginia Gov. Mills Godwin Jr.’s father. They adopted the name “Junto” as an homage to the 1727 literacy society founded by Benjamin Franklin.

The club has grown since its 1927 charter and expanded its activities both locally and abroad. They realized their longtime dream in 1983 by helping to found the Chuckatuck Library and provided volunteers for years.

Jennifer Bradshaw, the first Southside District vice president and former Junto Club president, fondly recalled volunteering at the library in those early years.

“That was a real big step,” she said.

The club currently boasts 55 members that continue to serve through projects and programs throughout Suffolk. Fund raising supports Meals on Wheels, local fire departments, Scout groups, and the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

Adding to their motto “our community, a better place to live,” the Junto Education Scholarship has granted two Suffolk high school seniors $1,000 scholarships each for the last several years.

“I’m proud that we’re able to do this for the students of Suffolk,” Felton said.

The community shows its appreciation of the Junto Women’s Club frequently. The Chuckatuck fire department allows members to advertise charitable causes at its station, and Oakland Christian Church allowed members to use its facility for their flea market in July.

This community response has helped sustain a healthy membership for the club. Felton said a new member was welcomed monthly from July 2016 to June.

She said the club has kept going for 90 years because of dedicated women working together, and there’s no sign of that stopping in the future.

“We have a strong club involved in community activities, and as long as we continue to get new members and they support those activities, I think our club will continue for a long time,” she said.