Woman’s Club donates $100,000 to Scholarship Fund

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — There was cause for celebration in Maplewood on Friday, May 13, as the township’s Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs honored the Woman’s Club of Maplewood on its 100th anniversary and, in turn, the Woman’s Club of Maplewood gave the Columbia High School Scholarship Fund a donation of $100,000 for future scholarships at a high tea ceremony in The Woodland.

The event was sponsored by Maplewood Township, the Maplewood Recreation Department and the Maplewood Office of Cultural Affairs. Woodland event coordinator Lisa Mainardi hosted the event, initiating, organizing and coordinating it, as well as preparing the food.

“It was important for me to welcome the women back to their original home, The Woodland, which was formerly The Maplewood Woman’s Club. I wanted them to feel special, which is why I used linens, china, silverware and glassware instead of paper and plastic,” Mainardi said in a recent email to the News-Record. “The Maplewood Woman’s Club has been and continues to be very generous to our community. I wanted to honor and acknowledge them as well as show them the appreciation that they deserve. As a result, I have been invited to become a member and am looking forward to being a part of this group which, for 100 years now, exemplifies the values of community service and fellowship among women.”

The event was truly a community affair as businesses and residents alike came together to supply food, cash donations and professional expertise to the celebration. Local businesses The Rack and Gigi’s Cupcakes supplied desserts; and Susie Adamson and Sue Adler of Keller Williams Realty, and Ian Grodman of Accord Mediation Center made cash donations, as did the ShopRite stores of Millburn and Union. John Connell of Prism Digital Communications printed posters for the event, and various individual residents donated food and helped prepare it.

Many past and present members of the local government were on hand to celebrate the anniversary event as well, including Mayor Vic DeLuca, Maplewood Democratic Committee Chairman Grodman, Susan Newberry of the Durand-Hedden House, Maplewood Memorial Library Director Sarah Lester, township administrator Joseph Manning, SOMA age-friendly coordinator Cathy Rowe, former Mayor Ellen Davenport, Maplewood Recreation Director Melissa Mancuso and municipal prosecutor Annette DePalma. Event attendees also had the pleasure of being served gourmet tea by DeLuca and Davenport.

The Maplewood Woman’s Club has played a vital role in Maplewood and beyond, from fundraising for student scholarships and activities, and the establishment of a community house and well-baby clinic, to raising money for a fighter plane during World War II. The organization’s birth and tremendous growth in membership occurred during Maplewood’s rapid development as a railroad suburb in the first half of the 20th century.

The Woodland as the location of the event had special meaning to the organization, as the Woman’s Club of Maplewood built and was the original owner of the building, dating back to its completion in 1930. The clubhouse was built with the express purpose of being used not only by the club but also by the local and larger community. During its more than 80-year existence, countless theater performances, concerts, lectures, dance lessons, recitals, fairs, wedding receptions, evening dances, civic meetings, fundraisers, celebrations and other gatherings have taken place within its auditorium and meeting rooms.

Though the building is now owned and operated by the township of Maplewood, the club continues to be a very significant part of the Woodland’s history.

DeLuca expressed his joy at having the club back in the building, and invited members to return to The Woodland for their meetings, and Mainardi shared some fond memories of the space.

“This building has always had special meaning for me. I have seen weddings, bar mitzvahs and communions take place here,” Mainardi said at the event. “Long before I started working for Maplewood, this was my favorite building. Welcome home, ladies.”

In addition to feting the Woman’s Club’s legacy, the event also was a celebration of the $100,000 donation made by the Woman’s Club to the CHSSF. The scholarship fund has been in existence since 1923, and provides need-based scholarships to graduates of Columbia High School to attend any two- or four-year college, as well as any trade, technical or certificate program.

The scholarships are awarded annually and can be renewed for as long as the recipient is in school and has financial need. During the past 11 years, the fund has awarded more than $1 million to approximately 1,000 students. The generosity of the Woman’s Club ensures that the scholarship will be endowed for many years to come.

For more information on how to endow a scholarship, contact the Columbia High School Scholarship Fund at chssf@chssf.org.

Photos by Shanee Frazier