WESTBROOK — A lot has changed over the last century, but what hasn’t is the community focus of the Westbrook Woman’s Club, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

The group was formed in October 1919 to “stimulate the intellectual life of its members and to promote the practice of charity in the community,” ideals that club President Beth Turner said the group abides by today.

Turner joined the Westbrook Woman’s Club in 2014 after retiring from Maine Medical Center.

“It has certainly fulfilled the expectations I was looking for,” she said.

Norma Manning, a member for the past 11 years, says participating in the club has been one of the most meaningful things she’s ever done.

“I was looking for something I could do to give back to my community by volunteering my time and my spirit,” Manning said. “I have found it to be one of the most worthwhile organizations I have belonged to.

“You don’t know how many friends you can have until you become a member of Westbrook Woman’s Club,” she said.

The group, affiliated through the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, originally met in members’ homes and then spent close to 40 years meeting at the former Warren Memorial Library. Since 1991, it has met at the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church. Over the years, membership has fluctuated, from the small group that started out to a high of 200 in the 1980s to 66 today. It is the largest GFWC chapter in the state.

Throughout its history, the Westbrook Woman’s Club has helped provide for residents of all ages.

In 1922, the club planted a purple beech tree in Riverbank Park and recommended city-wide garbage collection. In the 1930s, it erected street signs and welcome signs throughout the city. In 1951, the club compiled, edited and published “Highlights of Westbrook History.”

The club was the driving force behind what is now Westbrook Together Days. In  1980, members Nancy Kelson organized a day at Riverbank Park for club members and their families, and the annual city festival evolved from there. Although the club no longer organizes the event, it “has participated in every one since,” Manning said.

Throughout the 1980s, the group filmed safety tips for local cable television, financially supported the Cornelia Warren Outdoor Pool and distributed educational Spiderman comic books to students.

In more recent years, the club has been heavily involved with the annual Festival of Trees, sponsoring the Mad Hatters Tea and one of the many trees at the event, as well as the annual Drouin Dance performance.

Throughout the years, the club has also donated money for the city to purchase trash barrels and bicycle racks. Club members regularly come together around Thanksgiving and Christmas to collect food and gifts for the less fortunate. The club holds its popular lobster roll sale, its biggest annual fundraising event, in November. Last November, club members made and delivered more than 1,000 lobster rolls to businesses, residences and schools and raised $13,000. The net proceeds from the event go to scholarships for Westbrook students.

Manning said the club worked to start a Woman’s Club in 2018 in Uganda and throughout 2018-2019 has held an educational series on topics including food insecurity, the history of Westbrook in pictures, domestic violence and prevention, and women veterans. 

The club is now working on plans for its centennial celebration, which is scheduled for Oct. 20 at Fireside Inn and Suites in Portland.

“We are in the process of putting it together right now. It will be very special,” Turner said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

The Westbrook Woman’s Club, seen here at the 2017 Festival of Trees, has been working to better the Westbrook community for the last 100 years. The group’s centennial celebration is set for October.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.