From its inception, the Junior Woman’s Club of State College has dedicated itself to civic improvement. The Club originated as the Junior Section of the State College Woman’s Club. The first meeting was held on October 21, 1951, with a membership of 21 women. In February 1955, a joint meeting of the Boards of the State College Woman’s Club and the Junior section was held to initiate procedures for forming independent clubs. The Junior Woman’s Club of State College was federated with the Pennsylvania Federation of Woman’s Clubs in September 1955 and our current club was formed.
During the early years, the Junior Woman’s Club and its predecessor were involved in many important projects that assisted children and the local community. In 1954, the Junior section helped initiate the Daycare Training Center for Retarded Children. The Child Welfare Project was begun in 1957 as a citizen’s committee for care of dependent children in Centre County. From 1958 to 1960, the Club’s Community Involvement Project was advocating foreign language instruction prior to high school. In 1961, Juniors began the Child Protection Program in cooperation with the Juvenile Division of the Police Department.
Other projects focused on different community needs, including assisting international students and raising funds for holiday decorations in the downtown area. A major project in 1967 provided background research for the State College Community Center, and in 1969, the Club sponsored a nursery at the new hospital in our community. This same year, Juniors also became involved in efforts to establish the Youth Service Bureau.
In 1975, Juniors helped to develop a 20-acre tract of land for the creation of Walnut Spring Park. The Club was instrumental in helping to plan, clear, and develop park trails and educating the public about the park’s existence. Four Boy Scouts earned their Eagle Scout Awards for their participation in this project with the Club. During 1976-77, the Club’s efforts were concentrated on researching, laying the groundwork, and assisting in the establishment of a local chapter of the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities and a Reading is Fundamental program in the elementary schools of the State College Area School District. Additionally, during this time, Juniors were actively involved in many projects relating to the bicentennial celebrations.
These years of service received recognition from many sources. In 1969, the Club received the Benjamin Rush Award for outstanding health service to the community from both the Centre County and Pennsylvania Medical Societies. Other awards included the Citizens Action Award (1969), Philadelphia Inquirer Tribute to Club Women (1971), and awards from the American Cancer Society, PARC, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Woman’s Clubs. In 1979, the Junior Woman’s Club was honored by the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens for raising the most money for any club in the state from the Bike Hike.
The Junior Woman’s Club voted to withdraw from the Pennsylvania Federation of Woman’s Clubs as they were unable to meet the demands and requirements of the federation. However, the Club continued its commitment and tradition of service to the community.
Our major fundraising event from 1969 to 2002 was “Las Vegas Night,” which replaced “Follies” (1956-68). Over the years, Las Vegas Night raised over $200,000, and helped to fund projects such as new playing fields for the State College Little League (the Club contributed $17,000 to that effort). In 1997, Tri-County Habitat for Humanity dedicated a home to the Junior Woman’s Club in recognition of their substantial contribution of funds raised during Las Vegas Night.
The Elves’ Gift Shop has been the Club’s main fundraiser since 2003. EGS is approximately 30 years old. The gift shop is held at a local State College area school the first Saturday in December. Children shop for inexpensive items for families, teachers, and friends with the help of “elves” (local Girl Scouts). In 2004, we expanded the gift shop to include a small holiday bazaar in the cafeteria for the adult shoppers. Since 2009, the Elves' Gift Show has allowed us to donate over $7,000 per year to various charities.
In 2015, the Junior Woman's Club of State College rejoined the General Federation of Women's Clubs in order to help with recruitment and connect with the State College Woman's Club.