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Uke players bring merriment to Woman's celebration Richard Pena | Sun, Sep 11 2011 12:00 PM

In what seems to be a tradition, the Merrie Ukes entertained the other day at the first meeting of the Sweetwater Woman's Club new year.

If our memory is up to standards this is the fourth year that the Ukes have been invited to this momentous meeting- a privileged summons, indeed.

The woman's club year, similar to the schools of my generation, runs from September to June. They work hard on projects for nine months of the year and then take a much deserved rest that in more than one case turns out to be more work in preparation for the next period's projects.

I was speaking with the incoming president, Janice Hughes, the other day and she told me of some of the things that are on the agenda.

Hughes, you might know, is not new to the club. She has been a member for 43 years and this will be her second stint as president, having served in this post in 1984.

She is aware of, and concerned with, the principal dilemma of woman's clubs - all clubs for that matter - and that is the lack of new members.

This is particularly true of the reluctance of young ladies to commit themselves to such a unit.

In the case of the Sweetwater Woman's Club I find this situation rather strange. This club has a history that is as colorful as some of the cities in the county.

It goes back to 1911, more than 100 years. This past club year the ladies of the unit observed this anniversary with a special meeting attended by local dignitaries, but, just as importantly, longtime members.

The meeting was well attended and the club members were lauded for the many contributions that they have made to the community. With such a history it should attract members.

The contributions that the club has made to the community are as varied as they are many. Nearly $5,000, for example, has been given in scholarships to deserving students in the area.

A domestic violence shelter has received not only financial help but more than 100 sets of sheets. Various school libraries in the South Bay have been the beneficiaries of financial aid and other units, notably the Bonita-Sunnyside Fire Protection District have benefitted. The latter has been the recipient of the "Jaws of Life" the instrument used to extricate trapped individuals from wrecked automobiles, and the "sweetie bears", the sewn, stuffed animals that are given to young victims who have witnessed or suffered a trauma. The latter, for many years, was furnished by long time member Audra Palmer.

The members of the club, as well as other community members, take pride in the Sweetwater Woman's Club clubhouse that sits on a hill at the very entrance to the valley.

Built in 1934 it replaced the original clubhouse that was destroyed in the flood of 1916.

The present clubhouse is the work of the noted architect Cliff May, who designed and built many other classic structures in the county. It is a one-of-a-kind structure that has withstood, with grace, the ravages of weather and time.

President Hughes, it must be said, is a lady of many talents. She, and her husband, Delbert, a podiatrist, arrived in the South Bay 45 years ago and settled in Bonita. For many years she was a preschool teacher and an activist in the community. She is an artist who has been exhibited as a member of local art guilds, and has been an actress in productions of local acting companies. She is also a musician, a skilled pianist, who opens each meeting with a musical rendition.

The Merrie Ukes feel especially honored to be part of the club's celebrations.

Like the woman's club they, too, are a group of volunteers who exist primarily for the benefit of others. And like the woman's club they, too, are on the lookout for new members, individuals who wish to pursue those actions that please and delight others.

May the Sweetwater Woman's Club be as successful this year as it has been in the past. The Merrie Ukes are looking ahead to perpetuating this tradition.

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