Soroptimist International of

Grosse Pointe (SIGP)

Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe members span across the decades from our 100+ year old member to  young women in their 30's!  We respect each member's viewpoints and learn from each other!  We work together as a team to help women and girls in our community and around the world. Here is our story


Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe
A History of the First Twenty Years
1956—1976
Compliments of Jean Taylor and Harriet Helms

The First Ten Years:  1956—1966

The Grosse Pointe Soroptimist Club was sponsored by the Soroptimist International of Detroit.  Many members of the Detroit Club helped in the new club’s take-off, but Flo Thorenburg deserves special mention for the time and energy she gave to the ground work in Grosse Pointe

The organizational meeting was held Wednesday, June 13, 1956 at the Village Manor with dinner preceding.  At this initial get-together, the proposed members were able to get acquainted, name their club, elect their officers and plan for the charter dinner.  The name given the club at this time was The Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe, changed two years later to The Soroptimist Club of Grosse Pointe.  Doris Forsythe was elected the first president.

It was decided to hold two meetings a month, a business luncheon meeting the second Monday at 12 noon and a program dinner meeting for fourth Wednesday at 6:30 p. m.  Held at the Village Manor for a time, the place of meeting was early changed to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial where it now is.  In March 1961, the luncheon meeting was discontinued to be replaced by an evening business meeting at the Grosse Pointe Public Library.  This was done on a trial basis with the hope of promoting better attendance but in 1962 the members voted to return to the luncheon arrangement at the War Memorial.  The annual dues were set at $15.00.

Our club received its charter Saturday, July 14, 1956 at a dinner at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.  Virginia Sink, a past president of Soroptimist International of Detroit and later Governor of the Mid-western region and President of the Soroptimist Federation of the Americas Inc., installed the officers and inducted the eighteen charter members.

Now, ten years later, only seven of these members remain, five active and two sustaining.  The Grosse Pointe Soroptimist Club was the 59th in the Mid-western region and the presentation of the charter was made by Miss Helen Larkin, Regional Governor.  Glenn Pratt, past president of the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club gave an official greeting.

Because of limited finances during the first year or two of the club’s existence, our services were of necessity small.  These grew gradually, however, as our enthusiasm, knowledge of Soroptimism and general know-how kept pace with an expanding treasury.

Among our earliest service projects were small gifts to cheer the patients of the Grosse Pointe Nursing Home as well as items to meet their personal needs, a donation to the Foundation for Exceptional Children, an audiometer presented for the use of the public and parochial schools of Grosse Pointe and a Christmas basket for a needy family in the community.  The last mentioned service continues to be given each year at Christmas time.  Each year too, service has been given to the Foundation for Exceptional Children in the form of money, equipment, toys and Easter baskets.  In addition, every December, we have supplied a Santa Claus for the children’s Christmas party.

Branching out, our services have included camperships for needy children and for senior citizens, nursing scholarships, tuition for girls of several different colleges, money to the YMCA and the YWCA for girls unable to afford memberships, a special fund for victims of the tornado disaster at Anchor Bay, donations to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial every year, the Better Literature for Youth Council, the Northeastern Wayne County Child Guidance Clinic, the Babe Ruth Little League, the Soroptimist Foundation and the Franklin Settlement, also the League for Crippled Children.  Since February 1952 we have sponsored each year the Soroptimist Foundation Citizenship Award Essay Contest, giving to the local winner a U.S. Savings Bond.

Our most recent community service project is a birthday gift of $5.00 to each of twelve children in the Founder’s cottage of the Protestant Children’s Home.

Charity may begin at home but Soroptimists believe it should not necessarily end there.  The Grosse Pointe Soroptimist Club has been keenly interested in promoting International Goodwill and Understanding.  UNICEF cards and note paper are purchased each year to further this good cause.  In April 1963, we acquired a Sister Club in Denmark.  An UNESCO gift coupon has been sent to a school in the Philippines and more recently through Foster Parents Inc. we have adopted a little ten-year old Greek girl who receives $15.00 each month from us for a cash grant, clothing and medicine.

Services require money and the Grosse Pointe Soroptimists have been ingenious in devising ways and means to earn funds.  These have included annual rummage sales, bridge and card parties, raffles of various kinds including one for a color TV, white elephant sales, a more or less continuous sale of candy or nuts, a country store booth at the Rotary Antique Show, bake sales, two champagne brunches with a third in the offing, as well as several personal projects of one kind or another. A total amount of over $11,000.00 in money has been donated by the club to the community. 

Special mention should be made of the practical way some of our members have provided additional dollars for the treasury.  Each August when the War Memorial is closed our club members have been the guests of Cottage Hospital at a luncheon meeting, through the courtesy of Carolyn Wicks.  This helped line our coffers and was always an occasion happily anticipated by everyone.

The beautiful flower arrangement which graces the table at each of our dinner meetings is the donation of Maureen DePetris.  These lovely posies are raffled at 25 cents a chance to members.  Maureen has not only provided money for the exchequer and pleasure of all the members during the meeting but earns the ecstatic gratitude of those lucky enough to carry home the bouquets.

The raffle of several handmade sweaters and a mohair shrug has caused our funds to escalate.  Donated by Anne McClenahen, these two have been a delight to the recipient.  We regret space does not permit mention of all the many small ways other members have personally helped.

The official bulletin of the Grosse Pointe Soroptimist Club, THE POINTER, had its first issue July 1958, two years after the club’s inception and has been published continuously each month since then.  The first editor, Jean Taylor, retained this post until July 1962, when she was followed by Myrtle Harkness, who in turn was succeeded in July 1964 by our present editor, Harriet Helms.  To those driving through the Pointes, Soroptimist road signs with plaques, at the various boundaries, proclaim the time of the meetings.

The women who have held the gavel of our Grosse Pointe Soroptimist Club and brought us successfully through both smooth and turbulent weather during the past decade are seven:  Doris Forsyth 1956-57, Florence Lehman 1957-58, Lucille Hutchenreuther 1958-60, Anne McClenahen 1960-61, Carolyn Wicks 1961-62, Kathryn Gannon 1962-64, and Agnes Marshall 1964-66.  They have kept the principles of Soroptimism before us constantly and we believe the accomplishments of our club during these ten years have been of value to the community in which we live and in a small way to the world outside.  We look forward to the next decade with enthusiasm and high hopes.

Written by Jean Taylor, Historian

 

The Second Ten Years:  1966—1976

“The object of this club shall be to promote the objects of the Soroptimist International of the Americas, Inc. and to apply them toward the betterment of local conditions.”  This statement is found in Article II of our Club constitution.

 The record of past events has shaped the course of our future.  Jean Taylor’s history of Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe 1956—1966 prove that these objectives are the reason for our being.  We are indebted to her, and have used her story as a guide in narrating the club’s second decade.  Community service, our chief objective, has remained the same, but the means of accomplishment have changed to meet current needs. 

Scholarship Awards to pay tuition to local young women has been continued through 1972.  Originally, these awards were given to girls who were entering nurse’s training.  Later, girls who were interested in other fields were included.  Each year at least two girls were given assistance.  This was a satisfying experience to the members and the recipients.  Our contact was close.  The students were invited to special programs and events, and they wrote many letters, telling us of their progress, and how much the award meant to them.  Our last girl was graduated from the University of Michigan with a Registered Nurse Degree.  Through the years she had maintained a very high average, and was elected to the National Nurses Honorary Society, Sigma Theta Tau in 1973.

Continued attention has been given to the Foundation for Exceptional Children.  At Christmas time extra money is given to buy play equipment.  We are always invited to their Christmas party, and several members are there.  We know that our contribution is put to good use.

The Grosse Pointe Nursing Home has been visited at least once each year.  We go at Christmas, not to just hand out gifts, but to stay and talk to the people.  One evening, a number of members and husbands went to play bingo, and talk.

The club is a member of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Association, the Friends of the Grosse Pointe Public Library, and the Council of Better Literature for Youth.

Other needs have been heeded.  One time supplies for the Occupational Therapy room in the Pediatric Unit of Detroit General Hospital were purchased.  At the March 1967 program meeting a check for the purchase of a Braille typewriter was presented to Mrs. Gerald F. Fitzgerald, representing the Braille Transcribers of Grosse Pointe.

Early in the 1970’s we began to think more about the young people of our community.  To help combat the drug problem the service committee suggested involvement.  $1,000 was given to the Family Life Education Council (FLEC).  A representative of the Drug Addiction Rehabilitation Program spoke at one of our meetings.  At a joint installation of Detroit, North Macomb, South Macomb, and the hostess club, Grosse Pointe, Judge George Bashara, Jr., spoke on drug abuse.  Later, a representative of the Youth Service Bureau informed us of that agency’s work.  In 1973 $100 was given to the Bureau for the purchase of reading material on anti-drug use, for grades 3 and 4.  The information was distributed to all public schools.

Kathryn Gannon, our 1970 Service Committee Chairwoman was appointed to the Board of Directors of FLEC, whose members elected her to serve as treasurer.   By 1970 the club felt that our efforts to make community contributions were becoming fragmented.  A membership discussion covered our activities, their evaluation, and determination of our direction.  President Carolyn Thomson appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate in-depth projects for consideration.

Pointed out in our discussion were such suggestions as –one specific project that would be our primary concern; one which would give us definite identification; offer members more opportunities for personal participation; fill a need which was not receiving sufficient attention; new and different methods of fund raising for a project closely identified with our group.  The possibility of setting up scholarships on a loan basis was presented also.  The repayment of loans would result in a perpetual fund replenishing itself.  Another committee for this purpose was to be appointed.

As a result of these serious discussions of our directions, the club pledged $4,000 toward the Nurses’ Station in the Emergency Room of Cottage Hospital in 1973.  The money was to be paid over a period of 3 or 4 years.  At the entrance to the room, a plaque was to be placed.  Names of deceased members were to be added.  To date, those names are Jean A. Taylor, and Nina Carruthers.  The reasons for concentrating on Cottage Hospital were two-fold.  It would be a contribution to the health services of Grosse Pointe.  Our pledge would be an expression of gratitude to Cottage Hospital because of three of their staff member’s dedication to Soroptimism.  Carolyn Wicks, a past president, was the former Administrator of the Cottage Hospital and Carolyn Thomson another past president, is Head Medical Technician, and Nancy Davidson, a member since 1972 is Director of Development.

In 1973 $1,000 for Cottage Hospital’s Development Fund was presented to Mrs. T. D. Buhl, Co-Chairwoman of the fund.  At our 1975 March program meeting held at the Hunt Club, President Lee Meyer presented Mr. Ralph Wilgarde, Cottage Hospital Administrator, with a check in fulfillment of our 1973 pledge to the Development Fund.   In 1975 the club voted to continue its support of Cottage Hospital by pledging an additional $6,000 to a fund for the renovation of the old building.   With the beginning of Carolyn Wick’s membership, Cottage Hospital has hosted our August Business Meeting.  Delicious luncheons and buffet suppers have been served in the Nurses’ Residence and in the Board of Director’s Meeting Room.  At one evening meeting Soroptimists were given a tour of the new wing.  Our Gift and Memorial Fund, established in 1967, in memory of those dear to the club and/or individual members, was the source of our initial hospital pledge.

In order to accomplish our service objectives money is a necessity.  Our club bylaws, Article VI, Section 18, states that a ways and means committee shall suggest methods of raising money and shall promoted all proposals for purposes which are approved by the club.  This committee has functioned well, and with the cooperation of the entire membership.

For a number of years Anne McClenahen, a member, has knit sweaters to be raffled.  Returns from the sale of raffle tickets have been a good source of income.  Other means which have been enjoyable as well as lucrative were wine tasting dinners, champagne brunches and a chartered bus trip to the Stroh Brewery.  Our Dutch Auctions have been pleasurable and profitable.

In 1968 a Scholarship Tea was held in the home of a friend of one our members.  This was successful in both money making and publicity.  The community was made more aware of our scholarships.  For several years the sale of Christmas cards added to the treasury.  Profits have come from the sale of stationary, candy, fruit cakes and still come from the sale of dish cloths (a personal project).

Personal projects have been most helpful.  To name a few there was a Tupperware Party in a member’s home, a cocktail party in two member’s homes, a buffet supper in another’s place of business, the sale of hand carved wooden birds, maintenance of a booth at a Detroit Flea Market, and at the War Memorial, a jewelry party, sale of holiday seasonings and home made candy.  Raffle tickets were sold for dinners to be served in the winner’s home.  Several members planned, prepared, brought the dinner to the home and even washed dishes.  Other projects have been the making and selling of ceramics, washing walls and the paying for the printing of the roster and the POINTER.

From our beginning, rummage sales have been the major fund raising project.  However, times have changed, so it is necessary to find other means.  Locations became difficult to find, garage sales were competitive and members’ backs reached a breaking point.  They were discontinued in 1973.  In spite of all the hard work, the comradeship will never be forgotten.  We enjoyed feasting on and being sustained by delicious food provided by various members.

Through Nancy Davidson, Director of Cottage Hospital Development Fund, a tremendous undertaking culminated with a cocktail preview of Andrea Day paintings at Charterhouse Jewelry on September 19, 1976.  Over 1,000 invitations were mailed.   Prior to that, raffle tickets on one of the artist’s paintings were sold.  Proceeds from the event went to Cottage Hospital.

Program committees plan a schedule to coincide with the federation’s current aims.   Community problems and public affairs are emphasized in many instances.  Programs have been planned with other organizations, thus making for good public relations.  Rotary Club members and other service clubs have been invited to join us.  We, in turn, have been invited to meet with them.  One series of lectures on “How A Woman Can Plan Her Future” was co-sponsored by the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, the American Association of University Women and the Women’s Club.

A joint meeting was held in Windsor, Ontario, with that city’s Soroptimist Club.  Miss Irene Girard, the speaker, had experience in setting up and maintaining a half-way house there. 

One meeting featured three young women who were contemplating starting such a residence in Detroit.  Later, six of our members attended a benefit luncheon and fashion show sponsored by these women.

In conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Grosse Pointe and the Grosse Pointe Branch of the American Association of University Women, a 1976 dinner meeting at the Hunt Club featured a panel discussion, “Women In A Man’s World”.  Three outstanding women in the field of business, the media, and law told of their experiences in the often difficult climb to success.  This program gave us an opportunity to know members of the two co-sponsoring groups and renew ties with Soroptimists in surrounding clubs.

Two different program meetings featured the Directors of the Foundation for Exceptional Children, the Mongoloid Foundation, and the Perpetual Help Mission of Detroit.  In 1976 two members of the League of Women Voters presented a program on Issues and Answers, on state and local levels, in the up-coming elections.  “Do You Have Financial ESP?” was the topic for a discussion by a representative of an insurance company’s financial services and our own Maxine Niemeyer, an insurance counselor.

Through the years we have enjoyed meetings with our sponsor, the Soroptimist International of Detroit.  With their members we have observed Founder’s Day.  As many times as possible, we have attended programs of other clubs and invitations are extended to them.

All Christmas parties are times when we brighten the holidays for a needy family by bringing staple food and/or money.  Various members have offered us the warm hospitality of their homes.  Every party has been a festive occasion.  Our Twentieth Anniversary was celebrated at a special dinner.  Three charter members were there to be honored.  The club was chartered on Saturday, July 14, 1956.

Serious matters are tabled during July and August.  We gather for fun and the pleasure of each other’s company.  Starting in 1967 various forms of relaxing and eating have emerged.  Two outdoor picnics were held at the home of Anne and Bill McClenahen.  A delightful boat cruise of the Detroit River was taken as guests of the Women’s Aquatic Club.  “A Night at the Races” has seen some winners and some losers, but all happy people.  By chartered bus, members and their guests have gone for dinner and harness racing to Windsor Raceway and Hazel Park Race Track.  The Farms Pier Park has been a gathering place on two occasions.

District III contacts have added to our enlightenment and pleasure.  The Presidents’ Council has been very helpful.  A Meadowbrook dinner dance on November 22, 1974 was a highlight for members and their guests.  The affair was planned by District III.  It has been our privilege and pleasure to be the hostess club for two District III annual meetings.  On October 18, 1969 it was held at the Whittier Hotel in Detroit.  The sessions emphasized the federation’s theme:  Channels for Progress – Evaluation, Education, and Extension.  Lois Henderson, Midwestern Governor, was present.  The speaker was the honorable Edward S. Piggins, Judge of Wayne County Circuit Court.  His subject was “No Time To Surrender”. 

Miss Grace A. Hutchinson, Governor of Eastern Canada, SFA, was invited.  Because of a Canadian conference she was unable to attend, but contacted the Windsor Club.  A member of that club came.  As a result of this, two future meetings were held with the Windsor Club in Windsor.  Special thanks for the success of the day were due to Mr. Leonard H. Thomson, Director of Sales for the Whittier Hotel.  That year our Christmas party was held in the hotel’s gracious atmosphere.

Again, in 1976, we invited District III members to “Widen Your World” at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.  B. J. Thomas, Regional Governor, was on hand.  Natalie Patton, a member, and catering manager at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, and her staff “did themselves proud”.  Our entire membership contributed to the two smooth-running, fruitful meetings.

One Sunday in 1974 Grosse Pointe Soroptimists took advantage of the opportunity to meet a gracious, warm and interesting woman.  A reception and tea were held for Mrs. Edith Roberts of Wallasey, Cheshire, England, at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.  She was the recipient of the Kathleen Elliott Scholarship Award for further study in the field of “Oral Communications in Industry”.  She is past president of the Soroptimist International Club of Wallasey and past president of the Divisional Unit of Cheshire and North Wales. 

In her telling of Soroptimism in England, it was interesting to learn that their activities are similar to ours.  Visiting General Motors Institute in Flint was a part of the award program.  Regional Governor Frances Moore was present, as well as representatives from other clubs.  Governor Frances presented Mrs. Roberts with a desk notepaper container bearing the SFA insignia.  As a momento, President Maxine Niemeyer gave the guest of honor a small American flag pin, Alistair Cook’s America, a copy of Know Your Grosse Pointe, and an original poem.  Our International Good Will and Understanding objective was put into action.

Business meetings are held at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.  The Board of Directors meet at 6:00 p.m.  Program meetings are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the same place.  However, on special occasions programs have been held elsewhere.

Foster Parents’ Plan participation was begun in 1966 as a gesture of good will.  Our first girl lived on the Island of Rhodes.  At age 18 she was replaced by a girl from Bogota, Columbia for one year.  At the end of that time the project was discontinued.  We had enjoyed correspondence about the girls and felt that we had made a definite contribution. 

For a number of years we enjoyed communication and friendship of our sister club in Store-Magelby, Denmark.  They became our friends.  For some reason or other letters stopped.  We asked for another sister club and it was the Soroptimist International of Mexicali Noroeste, Baja California, Mexico.  Later, our Denmark sisters resumed contact.  At this time communication with either club has been infrequent.

Victims of the Guatemala earthquake of 1976 were remembered with a contribution.

SFA Maldives Islands Project became one of ours.  For a number of meetings each member added to our world bank.  UNESCO coupons have been purchased each year.  UNICEF greeting cards were ordered for several years through the club.

The Soroptimist Foundation Endowment Fund is a part of our budgeted expenses.  Midwestern Region’s Scholarship Award is supported by us.  This $1,500 award is given to women currently attending college or nursing school and working toward a higher degree in her chosen field.

Youth Citizens’ Awards were an active project at one time.  Information about the essay award was distributed to all local high schools.  Publicity was printed in the newspapers.  Each member was urged to speak to students on an individual basis.  Winners have been awarded U.S. savings bonds and asked with parents, to attend program meetings.  Much to our disappointment, there was a lack of response and interest.  It has been discontinued.

The Golden Jubilee of SFA received our special attention by the planting of a tree on October 27, 1971.  A Norway maple, donated by a former member and her husband, was planted on the left side of the main driveway to the Alger House, Grosse Pointe War Memorial.  President Carolyn Thomson made the presentation to Mr. Frank McBride, President of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Association.  Vincent DePetris, Chairman of the Grounds Committee, John Lake, Director of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial and the donors were present.  Tea was served to members and guests following the ceremony.  A fine picture taken by Peggy Lehman and a news article appeared on the front page of the Grosse Pointe News.

The POINTER received the bulletin award at the 61st Midwestern Region Conference held in Detroit in 1968.  Carolyn Wicks was the editor.  Again the POINTER was given first place at the Midwestern Region Conference held in Dayton, Ohio in 1972.  Kathryn Gannon was the editor.  Bulletin awards have been discontinued.

Installations have always been important and colorful affairs.  Many times a District III Director conducted the ceremony.  Our first joint venture was held in 1970.  We decided to ask nearby clubs to join us.  In June, South Macomb and the Mt. Clemens clubs participated with Ruth Reese, immediate past director of District III, conducting the installation.  We, in turn, have been invited to share this event with other clubs.  Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe was the hostess club again in 1973.  Kathryn Gannon, a past president, presided.  We were joined by Detroit, and North and South Macomb club members.

New members have been acquired in various ways.  An extension of our territorial limits to include the City of Harper Woods was approved in 1967.  This was a definite benefit. 

Many times individual members have recommended and/or invited eligible prospective members to program meetings.  However, it was decided that our search should continue on a broader scale.  Fifteen women were invited to a Sunday afternoon tea at Anne McClenahen’s home.  Results were effective.  A Sunday brunch was held at the Hunt Club in 1976.  Information about Soroptimist International was available through conversation and printed material.  Five guests responded to the invitation to membership.

Great pride can be taken in our members’ personal successes and their dedication to Soroptimism.  “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving…We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, --but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”  (from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Homes in 1858)

Special thanks go to Kathryn Gannon for editing this material. 

Written by Harriet Helms, Historian, 1975-1976