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Club leaves behind funds, legacy of service

July 1, 2014

Gone but not forgotten.

Such is the current state of the Brookfield Junior Woman's Club after it disbanded earlier this month.

Club members say that the organization, which was founded on and fueled by community service, had experienced difficulties of late in attracting new members.

"We were down to about five members. When I joined there were probably over 60," Brookfield Junior Woman's Club outgoing President Jenny Jones said. "I think in general it's hard to get people to volunteer in this economy."

The club was comprised primarily of young mothers and was involved in a wide variety of causes, including sponsoring and supporting Easter egg hunts, spelling bees, art shows, and more.

"Any kind of civic organization provides the ability to develop close friendships in the community as you work with people to make the community a better place," Brookfield Junior Woman's Club member Laura Schmidt said. "Some of the women in the club were some of the women of the highest character that I've ever met. It's sad to see it go."

While the club has disbanded, its members have left behind funds that will continue to support causes that relate to the club's values. The reserves have been reallocated into an endowed fund within the Waukesha County Community Foundation that will produce grant awards up to $1,500.

"We basically have a list of the causes that we've supported in the past and we want to continue to support them," Schmidt said.

The club's mission included prioritizing community support, women's health, family support, and children's health and safety.

The Brookfield Junior Woman's Club was founded in 1967. Among some of its major projects throughout its 47-year lifespan are grants to Elmbrook Memorial Hospital, the club's Christmas home tours and Spring Fashion Show, and a capital campaign to generate funds to build the Survive Alive house, which teaches fire safety to elementary school children.

In the late 1990s, the club also committed to raising $50,000 to build the art terrace at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.

"The Junior Woman's Club was an organization that was fantastic for me as a young mother. It was a way for us to get together and give back to the community and also form some adult friendships and enjoy some adult time," Jones said. "Some of the closest friends I have I met through the club."

Both Jones and Schmidt were unable to fully pinpoint what was so difficult about finding new members to replenish the club's ranks as other members were pulled away by other duties.

"A lot of our members returned back to work or their kids grew up and they have other responsibilities now," Schmidt said. "I think when we were at our strongest was when we had a really strong campaign or goal to strive for. We've tried to recruit other parents, but for whatever reason, the community service aspect doesn't appeal to people as much these days."

Still, Jones isn't ready to fully give up on the club. While the endowed fund will continue to reward organizations that support the club's mission, it will also remain available for a potential revival.

"We're hoping that some women down the road would like to reinstate the club and so this is a way for us to kind of keep our name out there," Jones said. "We're just going to keep donating back to the community and hopefully, somewhere down the road, someone will take over and the club can make a difference again."

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