Club has Wilmington interests at heart
By Betty Wirth For The Herald-News May 3, 2011 9:22AM
Betty Wirth - columnist
Updated: September 29, 2011 12:29AM
Take a look at the membership roster of the Wesley Club and you’ll see that its members are not only active in that local group, but dedicated to helping the Wilmington community and beyond.
They are the same women who help or have helped with, among others, the Moose, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Daughters of the American Revolution, Garden Club and their various church groups. You’ll also find that the Wesley Club is still going strong, although the membership has changed in scope through the years.
The club originally began as one of the township clubs for rural women under the umbrella of the now defunct Will County Club League. At one time every township in the county had a club.
Today, only the Wesley Club still exists — and with an ever-growing membership — thanks to the efforts of its president, Kathleen Kennedy, of Wesley Township.
Most of the early members belonged to the Will County Farm Bureau, said Eloise Jones, who has relocated from Wesley Township to Morris. She was a high school sophomore in the early 1930s when she began to attend meetings with her late mother, Nellie Clark.
Kennedy, in her mid-90s and living at Our Lady of Angels in Joliet, joined the club in 1944 after getting married, when her Wesley neighbor invited her to a meeting. “So many people working together,” she said. “We have a lot to be thankful for.”
Kennedy still spends one day a week at the home of her daughter, Margaret Benoit, to bake bread. And she still has her familiar signoff to a conversation: “You know what they say, ‘God bless you, and me, too.’ ”
Three or four times a year, into the 1990s, other clubs’ members gathered at the Elwood Community Church for a program, luncheon and social time. As the members grew older, they car-pooled to their meetings.
Wesley members used to meet in each other’s homes, but today are more likely to gather at area restaurants for lunch and their meetings. Nancy Skowron, with the help of Carol Marek, hosted the club earlier this year.
The members also venture outside of the area. A recent mini-trip was to Starved Rock in Utica. Other trips planned this year are boat jaunts down river in June and October.
Kennedy followed Helen Jackson’s excellent leadership as president. She’s also with the Midewin Tall Grass Alliance, Eagle Club 3585, a Joliet Dems Precinct 1 committee member and on Exelon’s community advisory panel. Gina Stachowiak, who sends out greeting cards, is with the Chamber of Commerce. Also active in the community are Judy Wunderlich and Carol Partilla, who contact members about meetings.
Although it cost 50 cents to join Wesley Club in the early days, today there is no enrollment charge, but dues are $1 a month to offset expenses and to donate to a local charities. The club also assists Embassy Care Center in Wilmington by providing prizes for the residents’ bingo games and baking cakes once a year for its birthday parties.
Kennedy wants to keep the same structure of the club as it was in the 1990s, when she attended the meetings with the late Mildred Joyce, Ruth Goodwin, Esther Zimmerman and Rina Ernst, to mention a few.
In those days the club had a membership booklet with suggested themes for the monthly meetings. Today, the meetings are less structured, but still take in the interests of the members.
Reach Betty Wirth at email@example.com