Story By Susan Lee Photos By Shelia Scott
In January of 1966, a new women’s club was formed in Effingham. The week after their first meeting, the ladies opened the Springfield newspaper and read an article that began, “The Haymakers Circle was organized on Monday afternoon at their club room in Clyo.”
While the actual name of the group at the time was the Clyo Homemakers Circle, the erroneous title of Haymakers wasn’t that far from the truth. The old saying, “make hay while the sun shines” essentially means taking advantage of an opportunity and doing something while you have the chance. And that’s exactly what this group has been doing for half a century. Whenever they’ve had the chance to help someone in need or an opportunity to donate to their community, they’ve always been on hand with generosity and kindness.
The group changed their name to the Clyo Homemakers Club in 1989 and celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. The charter members were: Edna Allen, Jaunita Allen, Evelyn Arden, Eva Crenshaw, Shirley Exley, Carolyn Exley (Seckinger), Marie Exley, Marsha Exley (Buckley), Maude Gnann, Margaret Groover, Caryl Morgan, Carolyn Morgan, Julia Rahn and Linda Rahn. Most of the women were previously members of the Clyo Home Demonstration Club, affiliated with the State of Georgia through the Extension Service.
In the early days, the Homemakers met for years in the former Metzger store across the railroad tracks, renting it for the amount of the annual tax payment. Because the building wasn’t furnished, the ladies brought in tables and chairs and did their best to transform it into a welcoming club house (despite the fact that it had no restroom or kitchen).
As early as 1976, the group began discussing plans to build a meeting place and soon opened a bank account to start saving toward that goal. They became incorporated in 1991 and soon after purchased the lot north of the Clyo Fire Department. This .7 acre lot had been the site of the home and office of Dr. William Wyburg Smith.
The club’s building committee was Jaunita Allen, Julia Rahn, Edna Allen, Margie Sullivan and Carolyn Morgan. They not only spearheaded the fundraising, but they also contacted several contractors for bids, selected the floor plan, borrowed money and managed the building process.
In 1993, they accepted a bid from Harvey Kieffer to build a brick building 32 feet by 50 feet for $46,000. “I have not included any expense or profit for myself in these figures,” Harvey noted on the bid.” They had to obtain a small loan on the building for funds not raised through fundraisers.
Julia’s fondest memory is when they broke ground. “It was almost hard to believe what this group of women had done, all of us working together,” she said. “We had dreamed for so long of having our own building and now it was a reality.”
The official ribbon cutting ceremony was held on June 22, 1993, at the first meeting in the new clubhouse. By June 1996, the loan had been paid and they ceremoniously burned the note at a family night supper meeting.
A true civic organization in every sense, the Clyo Homemakers Club has raised money to support the Effingham community from its earliest days. As Edna Morgan wrote in the club’s 1966-1990 history: “At the first regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 25, 1966, the treasurer’s report showed a balance of $7.11. A money making project was needed. The first project was for each person to put one dollar to work for a month, either make a pie, cake or hand work, sell it, and put the profit into the treasury. As time passed, we became more generous and our money making projects increased.”
Over the years, their fundraising projects have included bake sales, barbecue dinners, yard sales and Tupperware parties, to name just a few. Each October, the club meeting includes a “Feed the Elephant” auction. “Members bring an item, wrap it up in any way to disguise it, then members bid on it,” explained Patsy Usher. “At the beginning they were mostly baked goods but now we have a variety of items. You just don’t know what you might get.”
They have also published an enormously popular series of cookbooks since 1976, the most recent entitled “The Best of Effingham”. And each year since the very beginning, the women have sold raffle tickets to award one lucky winner a beautiful hand-stitched quilt. Current members of the quilt committee are Helen Edwards, Julia Rahn, Claudine Arnsdorff, Hazel Lee, Dottie Hamilton and Linda Murray. All proceeds from the ticket sales are used to award a $500 annual club scholarship as well as a $500 scholarship for 4-H students.
Last year the group made an additional quilt. “For our 50th anniversary, the group made a special quilt that included patches saved from each of the past quilts,” said Edna Allen. The raffle for this commemorative quilt was only open to club members.
The proceeds from their fundraising endeavors have helped countless Effingham people and community organizations over the years. The group has provided Christmas gifts and food for needy families, delivered Thanksgiving baskets to homebound seniors, helped transplant recipients with needed funds, and hosted birthday parties at the nursing home. They have donated to the Effingham schools, Clyo Fire Department, American Cancer Society, Diabetes Foundation and many other groups.
The Clyo Homemakers Club’s current officers are: Bonnie Morgan, President; Patsy Usher, Vice President; Julia Rahn, Treasurer; and Betty Allen Sikes, Secretary. The Board consists of Dottie Rahn, Hazel Lee, Brenda Dasher and Past President Patsy Usher. Club Chaplain is Marlene Porter. Scholarships are coordinated by Betty Allen Sikes and Lee Ellen Hanberry. Lee Ellen also manages rentals of the clubhouse. Brenda Dasher coordinates ticket sales for the quilt.
Currently, the Clyo Homemakers Club has approximately 35 members. “Our members come from throughout Effingham,” said Betty Allen Sikes. “A new member is recommended by a club member and voted on by the club.” She added that 10 new members were added last year.
“I really enjoy the meetings because it’s a nice group of ladies and I enjoy the fellowship,” said Lee Ellen Hanberry. “You never know what you might learn or who the speaker might be. And you also know you’re doing good for other people. I go home after a meeting always feeling better than before I came.”
Edna Allen was a charter member of the Clyo Home Demonstration Club. “It’s an honor to continue to carry on what we had started years ago,” she said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people that I would never have met if I didn’t belong to this club.”
For many club members, the Clyo Homemakers Club is a part of their heritage. Julia Rahn’s mother, May Exley, was a member of the Home Demonstration Club and later joined the Clyo Homemakers Club.Betty Allen Sikes’ mother was charter member Jaunita Allen. “My mother loved this club,” said Betty. “She was the chairperson when our club building was constructed. I’m proud to be a member to honor her and continue to help the community.”
Bonnie Morgan’s mother, Marie Exley, was also a member. Because her mother was not able to drive to the meetings, Bonnie drove her to the club and eventually became a member. “We’re a close-knit bunch,” she said. “We’re family.”
Each September, all of the members who are 69 years old and younger host a luncheon to honor the members who are over 70 years old. It’s a special event, with the younger ladies providing the covered dishes and entertainment.
For half a century, the women of the Clyo Homemakers Club have given of their hearts and souls and dedicated themselves to their community. Fortunately for the people of Effingham, they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.