Woman’s Club celebrates 101st birthday

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Woman’s Club is commemorating its 101st year of service and members came together to celebrate at their former home base on Woodland Road in Maplewood, announce donations to several town organizations, and to blow out the candles on a birthday cake.

The Woman’s Club sold the building, rebranded as The Woodland, to the town of Maplewood in 2013, and last month resumed holding monthly meetings there. At the Dec. 1 event, the organization’s board presented the Durand-Hedden House with $50,000 to restore the roof of the building, and donated $10,000 to Dickens Village for the upkeep of the miniature houses. Durand-Hedden House works to tell the history of the development of Maplewood and New Jersey through fun and interactive presentations. Dickens Village is Maplewood’s annual Christmas display of miniature homes in Maplewood Village.

“The money goes right back to Maplewood,” Woman’s Club President JoAnn Aponte told the News-Record at the event. “That was important, that we keep it in the town.”

There is even a replica of The Woodland at Dickens Village, a group of 10 houses that are approximately 6 feet tall and display scenes from Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale “A Christmas Story,” run by the Maplewood Village Alliance. When Aponte presented former Maplewood mayor and current co-director of Dickens Village Ellen Davenport with the donation, she also handed over china from the organization’s days at The Woodland to be displayed at the miniature version of their home.

“When we moved out, every member of the board was given a china cup and saucer,” Aponte said. “There was one left, and it can be displayed in the village now.”

In addition to donations going to Maplewood organizations, it was important to keep the Woman’s Club house a part of Dickens Village, even though the town now owns the building.

“I wasn’t letting up on that,” Aponte said, joking that when the club sold The Woodland to Maplewood, it would have been a deal breaker had the building’s replica in Dickens Village been retired.

“I think, even though their generosity expands outside the town, they admirably want to see the money be used in Maplewood,” Davenport told the News-Record at the event. She said that maintaining Dickens Village can be tedious, after being a staple in town during the holiday season for the last 60 years.

“Some have to be rebuilt right to the skins,” Davenport said, adding that this year one building had to be rebuilt after a wall was full of mildew. “It’s a lot of upkeep, and you want it to be nice. It can also be a business incentive for the town.”

According to Davenport, Dickens Village has ties to one of the oldest organizations in town — it was started by a group of Woman’s Club members before the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce kept it going, and then turned it over to the Village Alliance.

“It’s all run by volunteers who come to work the events and people who give their time, which is what matters in Maplewood,” she said. “Hopefully the tradition lives on.”

Susan Newberry, a Maplewood historian and president of the Durand-Hedden House, also described the deep ties between the Woman’s Club and the town.

“We’re here to shine a light on Maplewood organizations, particularly one like this,” she told the News-Record at the event. “One hundred and one years ago, if a woman wanted to be influential in the community, this is where they would come. It’s a very just thing, giving us this money because we know how important they are and they’re still trying to keep it going.”

The roof of the Durand-Hedden House is almost as old as the Woman’s Club itself, according to Newberry. The original roof was wood, and was covered with slate later when it went through repairs.

“It needs to be restored, the slate on the wood is too heavy and was drooping,” she said. “The chimney needs to be reconstructed because it’s really not up to code now. It probably will cost around $50,000.”

Additionally, Woman’s Club members celebrated the promise of a plaque that will be added to The Woodland acknowledging the work that the Woman’s Club has done during the last century. Mayor Vic DeLuca read a draft of what the plaque will say when it is displayed, highlighting the club’s work with children with special needs, victims of domestic violence, the Maplewood Library and the Columbia High School Scholarship Fund, among many others.

“That house in Dickens Village and this house will always be your house,” DeLuca told the members at the event. “It’s your legacy for all the work that you do here.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic