PENINSULA - For over 55 years the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has made a difference in our community and in the lives of children by improving opportunities for intellectual growth, and keeping the community informed about current legislation and community issues.
The Willapacific chapter of the AAUW first met on March 6, 1946 at the home of Mrs. Alex Shier (Burta). The then Washington State Vice-President spoke to the group and helped them to officially form on Feb. 12, 1947, when 24 women met and elected Mrs. J. Harold Clarke as their president.
By 1949 the group had grown to 31, and they began a College Forum that continued until 1995. Book fairs and rummage sales were held to fund the contribution to the AAUW scholarship fund.
It was the Willapacific chapter that in 1974 turned the Fort Columbia Administration building into an attractive gallery with hard work scrubbing and painting so that the Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Art Gallery - as well as famous Pacific Northwest artists - could show their exhibits. Members even staffed the gallery seven days a week until the state provided CETA workers to take over that responsibility.
Through the years the group has worked successfully with Kiwanis and other groups to bring speakers and other cultural events to the peninsula. Special events have included a traveling art exhibit, art lectures, and a light opera, art classes by Charles Mulvey, a violin concert by Heimo Haitto, a University of Washington touring theater performance, a Currier and Ives exhibit, and a Ford Times art exhibit. Most recently the club assisted in the health issues forum held in Ilwaco.
The purposes of AAUW are to promote equity, education, intellectual growth, individual worth, and the development of opportunities for women and girls. Community projects they participate in are scholarships to girls planning to enter the math or science fields and in hosting a table each year at the Exchange Students Dessert for the American Field Service. They also assist in getting out the vote for school levies and bonds and in holding non-partisan forums before every election. Getting better library facilities in Pacific County was another successful project.
Willapacific also brought adult education to the Peninsula. Four members have served on the school board and one was even the Ocean Beach Schools Superintendent.
The chapter began a literacy project in 1995 by giving each new baby's mother a booklet emphasizing the importance of reading aloud and giving the child and their sibling each a book. Along with this, the group is all involved in a tutoring program at the two primary schools and early elementary grades. They also have provided help with the ESEA Title I program in the past.
For six years, thanks to this chapter, each eighth-grader could use the CIS or VOCC program to choose a career. Making kits for the battered women's shelter is still an important community project.
Today the group is a main participant at the Cranberrian Fair with the sale of cranberry-peach pies in October each year. Edie Shire takes the lead and all members help out. The group also does needlecrafts with local themes.
In 2005, the Willapacific chapter will be hosting the state convention in Ilwaco-Long Beach once again. The theme is "Lewis and Clark" and they are still looking for a more specific theme. The chapter will be in charge of food, facilities, housing, recreation, and entertainment.
Regular AAUW meetings are held the third Saturday at 10 a.m. every other month and the third Monday evening on the alternate months. The group holds board meetings on the third Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m. in the Ocean Park Timberland Library.
The monthly book review group that promotes reading good books meets on the third Tuesday at noon at the Peninsula Church Center and is open to the public. This year's books included "King of Torts," "The Piano Tuner," "The Lobster Chronicles," and "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." 2004 books included will be "Bel Canto," "The DaVinci Code," "Cane River," "Secret Life of Bees," "Benjamin Franklin," and "Otto Frank." All are welcome to attend the review sessions, and they often continue after the meeting is over.
Not all work, two AAUW social events include a Christmas Party and annual salad luncheon. They have also attended several theater productions in Cannon Beach. At their November meeting, two new members joined as a result of their exposure at the Cranberrian Fair.
If you are a woman with a college degree and want to be a part of this service organization, contact Ann Ferguson at 665-3461 or Patti Pellerin at 665-3284.