Century Club essential to Middleburgh
By David Avitabile
Every summer the hanging baskets “appear” on the telephone poles in Middleburgh. In December, the Christmas trees in the Memorial Park are decorated by children from the elementary school and treats are given to each class.
Few people know who or what group is responsible for the flowers, cookies, and many other small things that make Middleburgh more pleasurable to live in.
The hanging baskets and the cookies are Middleburgh traditions thanks to the women at the Century Club.
“It’s just amazing the number of people who don’t know what the Century Club does,” said Stephanie Tinker the club’s co-president with Lin Stein.
The club has been responsible for the hanging baskets for about 20 years.
The late Dick Hanson of the Mill Farm, then the town supervisor, donated the hanging baskets on River Street.
Century Club members then went to local businesses and donors to raise funds to put the flowers on Main Street.
Since then, the project has grown and now about 90 baskets are hung on poles on River and Main Street, Wells Avenue, and across the bridge.
Over the years, the club has gotten many generous donations from the Carver Laraway family and the Middleburgh Telephone Company.
The donation from the Laraways was used to buy baskets two years ago and the funds from the phone company helped buy new liners that had been damaged in the 2011 flood.
Many families donate money for the flowers in the names of loved ones who have died, such as family of Chris Polak. Ms. Polak was a Century Club member and was very involved in the hanging baskets.
While club members have been successful at raising money, it has been a struggle in recent years in attracting new members.
The number of honorary members is increasing, but the number of active members is declining.
“We are looking to increase our membership,” stressed member and historian Sue Fackler.
She noted that the number of hanging baskets in the village has increased from about 25 to 90 and as the membership has shrunk, “that became a challenge” for the club and its members.
About $4,000 is needed each year to buy the flowers. Almost all of the money comes from local businesses and donors.
The village board allows the group to put a letter in the spring water and sewer bill about the baskets.
“Everyone enjoys the flowers so why not ask the residents?” Ms. Tinker added.
“It makes people feel better that they donated to something so important,” said Elizabeth Warnock, who coordinators the public relations for the club.
The active members also help in other important projects such as the tag sale in front of the post office in November to raise money for the library, the Mother’s Day pie sale to raise money for a scholarship at the high school, the summer book sale at the library, providing refreshments (along with other groups) at the Memorial Day ceremony, donating money for the Miracle on Main Street in December and music at the Fourth Fridays.
“Everything is for community, children, and school,” Ms. Tinker noted.
Ms. Warnock did note that the members have done the tag day for so long, that, “A lot of people are used to us so they look the other way.”
The projects of the club further its goal.
“The Century Club…promotes sociability, music, literature, education, and philanthropy. We support the community through beautification and other improvement programs.”
The longest tenured member is Marion Bouck who joined in 1951.
“She has dutifully taken care of remembrances and cards for many years,” Ms. Tinker recalled.
Like many volunteer organizations, its work is sometimes taken for granted.
At a recent Fourth Friday event in Middleburgh, Ms. Tinker said she heard several comments from people who did not know what the club and its members did.
One parent said, “We didn’t know you did the flowers. You sponsor the scholarship? My kid loved the cookie after decorating the tree.”
Over the years, the Century Club has also been involved in a number of different community projects such as the Memorial Park, the formation of the library, Maze Craze playground at the elementary school, the kindergarten playground, the Victorian Teas at the Best House, and much more.
The club was organized on December 3, 1900 at the home of Marietta Roberts on Main Street.
At that time it was known as the Musicale Club.
In November 1904, the name was changed to the Twentieth Century Club.
• • •
The club holds 12 Thursday meetings, October through May, twice a month. The meetings are held in the community room of the Middleburgh library at 1pm.
For more information, please contact Ms., Stein at 491-7741 or Ms. Tinker at 827-4352.