Babson Park Marks 100th Anniversary of Woman's Club
Organization's Clubhouse is Community Center and Resource
Last updated 11/11/2023 at 11:37am
An anniversary worth noting is happening this month, as a local institution marks its 100th birthday. The Babson Park Woman's Club (BPWC) is a designated national historic landmark standing just across the street from Webber University.
Established in the fall of 1923, the Babson Park Woman's Club turns 100-years old on November 16, 2023, marking a full century of significant contributions to the community and nation, ranging from local social activities to WWII bandage rolling efforts.
The club is inviting the community of Babson Park as well as residents in our neighboring cities to come celebrate this 100-year milestone, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm on November 16. The celebration will take place at the historic clubhouse, located at 1300 Scenic Highway. Light refreshments and drinks will be served in an open house style as guests step back in time to a "roaring twenties" themed celebration.
"If only she could speak, she would have a fascinating story to share of the diverse historical events she has witnessed," said club President Lynn Ohlinger. "It's a story that began with the incredible vision and determination of the Babson Park women who brought her to life. We are excited for the opportunity to share such a vital piece of local Babson Park history."
Over the course of the last century, the BPWC has played an active role in strengthening not only the fabric of our local community, but also shared its members' time, talents, and treasures to meet needs throughout the community and the world.
Initially, the women held club meetings in the homes of its members, but realized the need for a centrally located building that could also serve as an asset to the entire community. Mr. and Mrs. Roger Babson donated a piece of land to the Club with a deadline attached for the completion of a building.
Although many thought it couldn't be done, those determined women worked diligently for several years to raise over $7,600.00, covering not only the construction of the clubhouse and insurance on the building, but also leaving a small balance in the building fund so the Club was not left in debt. It was an amazing feat, gifting Babson Park with an enduring center to meet a myriad of community needs past, present, and future.
The purpose of the BPWC has always been civic and educational in nature. In the words of Alice Byron, a BPWC charter member, "When we saw a need, we ran." This is clearly demonstrated by the numerous local and global projects the Club has conducted over the past 100-years.
The clubhouse has been utilized not only as a meeting place for members, but also acted as a theatre for plays, concerts, and recitals, hosted luncheons, teas, fashion shows, art shows, bake sales, bazaars, varied educational presentations, holiday dinners, New Year's Eve parties, card parties, casino nights, bridge tournaments, yoga classes, square and line dancing, sock hops, as well as countless birthdays, showers, weddings, and memorial services.
The clubhouse has served as a community library housing 1600 volumes for many years. It has been a makeshift medical facility for surgeries, blood drives, and Red Cross work during WWII, and was used by Babson Park Elementary and Webber College for special events and graduations.
"It has been a tremendous blessing over the years to the community of Babson Park and holds an incredibly special place in the hearts and memories of so many local residents and their guests," Ohlinger said.
From its inception, the BPWC has been a force for good on both local and global scales. The Club has also extended its support beyond Babson Park to assist with needed funds for the building of the Lake Wales Hospital and the Lake Wales Library.
Monies were raised to assist immigrant workers in Immokalee and for children with special medical needs. Globally, members have made an impact with projects such as sewing garments for war refugees in Europe via the Red Cross, preparing medical bandages and pads, and sponsoring student education in the Philippines.
During WWII, the BPWC sponsored a "Victory Committee" and suspended club activities so that the clubhouse could be utilized solely for the war efforts.
"The amazing women of the Club have always been actively involved in meeting the needs of others," Ohlinger said. "They have been instrumental in fundraising events for the Crooked Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Polk County Mental Health Program, Sunland Training Center, Nature Conservatory at Tiger Creek, local Boy and Girl Scout Troops, educational scholarships, an area ambulance defibrillator, glasses for children, playground equipment for minority children, and even the PTA milk fund."
The heart of the BPWC is a commitment to make the world a better place for all, according to club members. Current goals include hosting events to raise funds for identified needs in our community, as well as maintaining our historic gem of a building. The public is invited to stop in and experience an integral part of Babson Park history.