From time to time as part of Membership Monday, we will post an article to profile a Women’s Institute Branch. As you might expect, each branch will have many similar characteristics. But each will have its own particular history, successes and challenges. Today we kick off the series with a profile of the Calhoun WI from New Brunswick.
Kim Légère, the youngest member, has been part of the Calhoun WI since 1996. Her grandmother, Hazel Lewis hosted the first meeting of the branch when it formed in September 1952.
Eileen Toole, a founding member is still active with the group. She has held many positions at the branch and district level.
In between these two women sit three… count ‘em, one, two, three others to complete the small but mighty WI. These five active members meet the third Wednesday of each month excluding the summer months of July and August.
Kim contacted FWIC to discuss membership. “I would love to see the Calhoun WI group grow in vast numbers,” says Kim. As a small child, she recalls her mother hosting the WI meeting where there were thirty or forty members in attendance. “Not that many years ago when women were homemakers they enjoyed the evening out, but with today’s hectic schedules women find it hard to commit to another scheduled outing.” Unfortunately, over the years, Calhoun’s membership has declined.
“I would love to see the Calhoun WI group grow in vast numbers,”
Both Kim and Carolyn O’Hanley, the president of Calhoun WI described the regular events as well as the special projects undertaken by the members.
The Calhoun branch is responsible for the street lights that their stand-alone community has enjoyed for ten years. This was accomplished through canvassing and petitioning the community residents. Provincial speakers were invited to meetings which were held in the only place available, the local community church. Finally, the lights were installed.
Calhoun WI was part of The Adopt a Highway Program until last year when the Province of New Brunswick decreased funding to the Department of Environment. The group has hopes that the newly elected government will grant funding for this project. The WI is watchful regarding the safety of roads in the area, too. They report to the government officials regarding the over-growth of bush and grass along Calhoun Road. Last year the government contracted out a major maintenance project to attend to this issue, something that might not have occurred if it were not for the diligent urging by the Calhoun WI.
Also in the community, the WI supports the breakfast program at one of the schools close to Calhoun, and each year they provide scholarships to high-school graduates. The members visit and send cards to those who are sick or shut-in, and they remember the bereaved in the community. The group also supports the local church with donations of supplies such as bath tissue, soap, and cleaners.
Each summer the group takes part in an outing and members invite a spouse or a friend for a social evening out with dinner. For example, one year they travelled to Dorchester and toured the Keillor House and had lunch at the Bell Inn. The women also meet for lunch as a group during the summer. One such event included a visit to the Boardwalk at Magnetic Hill. And of course, since it was summer, there was ice cream! Each Christmas members enjoy a festive restaurant dinner with their spouses. They also exchange gifts.
- Raffle tickets on a handmade quilt and a basket of goodies.
- Vessey’s bulb fundraiser
- Brown bag auction or Harvest Goodies are sold at the meeting
- Cold plate turkey suppers
- Valentine teas and monthly teas
- Quilting bees
Kim’s thirteen year-old daughter, has three cousins who live close by and all of them love the women of the WI and look forward to joining when they are older.
“I know that my grandmother Hazel would be proud to think that her daughter Wanda, her granddaughter Kim are members of the WI and that her great-granddaughter Sarah plans to join.”
As you can see, a small but mighty group indeed. The main challenge is the number of members. Kim would dearly love to see the group grow to vast numbers.
So would we.
If you have any words of encouragement or suggestions for Calhoun, they’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to share this story with your memberships, too.