The Woman’s Club of Clayton was organized in 1918 and celebrated 100 years of service to the Clayton community in 2018. At the February Town Council meeting, a proclamation was read by Mayor Jody McLeod.
Proclamation for 100 years of Service
HISTORY of The Woman’s Club of Clayton North Carolina
The Twentieth Century Mother’s Club was organized October 18, 1918 by eighteen mothers from Clayton who met at the home of Mrs. I.D. Hinson. The name was changed to The Woman’s Club of Clayton on May 21, 1920, and on November 12, 1920, with a membership of twenty-seven, the club joined the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs (NCFWC). Mrs. D.J. Thurston served as the first president, and the club motto “Esse Quam Videri” was adopted.
Interests included the local schools, welfare of the children, community and civic interests, cultural subjects, and home affairs. Music was a part of every meeting, usually provided by the talented club members. Meetings were held in the homes, with members taking turns as hostess.
As the membership grew, the dream of a clubhouse was born. During the 1923-1931 administrations, under the leadership of Mrs. B.A. Hocutt and Mrs. Ronnie Ellis, the club purchased a lot. An old school building was purchased and moved to the lot. Using plans drawn by Architect Douglas Ellington, the building was remodeled. The clubhouse was a reality.
While raising funds for the clubhouse, other club work was not forgotten. T.B. clinics were held, plays were performed, legislative measures were considered, Rotary dinners were served, the public library was begun, and the Lucile Ellington Hocutt Scholarship Loan Fund was established. In one year, over eleven hundred trees were planted. Many are still living.
Club members met the demands of the depression years, 1931-35. Red Cross supplies were distributed, hot lunches were served in both schools, and a soup kitchen was set up. In 1932, the club joined the international General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC).
During WWII, members knitted, sewed, bought war bonds, provided space for service men on leave to sleep, and continued their support of the schools and community.
Mrs. O.E. Longwell became President in 1947, and extensive club repairs and redecorating took place. A committee was appointed to work with the Rotary and Lions Clubs to develop plans for the young people of the community. Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Barbour donated a lot, and on September 24, 1948, the Youth Center building was formally opened.
Recognizing the need to involve younger women in the community, Mrs. W. S. Penn organized the Clayton Junior Woman’s Club. Mrs. C.H. Beddingfield, Jr. became president of the forty-six-member club, with Mrs. Ben Duncan from the senior club as advisor.
In 1958, the end of an era and a new approach to the work of the Federation brought departmentalization. Under the leadership of Mrs. E.W. McCullers, Mrs. Robert Winston and Mrs. T.R. Bass, Presidents 1958-1964, the club captured the Battle A. Hocutt District 13 Award as best all-round club for six consecutive years.
Formation of the Community Improvement Council in 1959, spearheaded by the Woman’s Club, influenced Dr. T.R. Bass to locate in Clayton. The Council also set up a Swimming Pool Corporation to sell shares of stock and to build a swimming pool, which is still enjoyed today. Competing in the GFWC-Sears Roebuck Improvement Achievement Contest, the Woman’s Club and the Junior Woman’s Club placed fourth in the state.
In 1967, a check from Mr. Walter Priddy founded a second loan fund, the Rena Beckwith Horne Scholarship Loan Fund, in honor of Mr. Priddy’s mother. The two scholarship loan funds and an annually awarded Woman’s Club Scholarship have been used to help high school seniors further their education. The fiftieth anniversary was celebrated in 1968 with the publication of a club history titled “Fifty Years of Courage.”
In 1969, the Club joined in the centennial celebration of the incorporation of the Town of Clayton.
Prior to her death, Mrs. B. A. Hocutt deeded her home and lot to the Town of Clayton to be used for a library. When the site was approved, a Friends of the Library Corporation was formed. In May of 1981, the Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library was officially opened. The Woman’s Club and individual members continue to support the library with gifts of money and volunteer time to assist in library services and programs.
Between 1986-1992, the Club won the NCFWC Traveling Award for resolutions, the GFWC National Award for bulb sales, and the NCFWCCIP District Citation for improvements at the city cemetery. At the District level, the club won first-place silver trophies in Public Affairs, Home Life, Education, Arts, Yearbook, Club Woman of the Year, and Best All-Round Club.
From 1990-1992, the Club’s annual rummage market, the Ultra suede clothing sales, and a very special fund-raising project which involved the sale of porcelain Christmas ornaments which were designed, made and donated by Don Hudson of D&K Pottery resulted in a total of $7,880.00 raised from club projects.
A special yearbook and luncheon celebration in October 1993 marked the Diamond Jubilee of the club. The book “Reaching the Diamond Jubilee,” recording the Club years from 1969 to 1993 was published, bringing the club history up to date.
Support for Harbor House, a shelter for battered women and children, became a new project during 1992-1994.
Club members served as District 13 President, Vice-President, and Secretary/Treasurer during 1988-1994, and held leadership positions from 1994-2002.
From 1994-1999, membership swelled. A new fundraiser, “The Silent Auction,” proved to be fun and lucrative with very little effort. NCFWC drew new district lines and Clayton became part of District 8. Clubwomen won many awards at the N.C. State Arts Festival. Significant renovations were done to the clubhouse, including the building of the Mary Hocutt Taylor Gazebo.
In 2002, the centennial year of the GFWC-NC was celebrated by the Club members wearing vintage hats to the May meeting. The Club history was updated through 2000, a shop window was decorated with vintage clothing and a reception was held to recognize outstanding women of the community. At the GFWC-NC Convention, the Club received the pewter tray for the best centennial celebration in the state. A golf tournament at Riverwood Golf Club raised $6,000 for Habitat for Humanity. A portion of the funds were moved from the Lucile Ellington Hocutt and the Rena Beckwith Scholarship Loan Funds to the Johnston County Community Foundation and re-named The Woman’s Club of Clayton Hocutt-Horne Scholarship Endowment.
During the 2004 -2016 administrations, Club members became more involved in the District and state Federation. Five Club members held offices at the District level and two at the state Federation level. Members served as GFWC-NC Treasurer, GFWC-NC Recording Secretary, GFWC-NC 2nd Vice President and GFWC-NC Trustees. The Education Department encouraged young mothers to read to their children with their “Books for Babies” drive. Working with Johnston Memorial Hospital and a local gynecologist, members made 225 bags containing books and information for new mothers. Seven members joined the GFWC-NC ESO reading program and began monthly meetings. A new fundraising project, the “Taste of Carolina Cuisine” directed by Dianne Carroll, was held at The Clayton Center in 2005. Local restaurants participated by providing food samples from their menus. A silent auction, a DJ, and a raffle were also included.
During the 2010-2012 administration, a very successful program, a puppet show addressing and teaching character development, was presented to the first and second grade students in all the local elementary schools. The performing puppeteers were members of a student organization, “Men of Distinction,” from Clayton High School. Members of the Club were mentors, supervisors and directors.
In 2012, the Club’s two main fundraisers, the Taste of Carolina Cuisine and the Rummage Sale, both continued to be very popular with the town and brought substantial funds to our club’s budget. These funds allowed us to continue our support of local needs, including Backpack Buddies, a program that supplies food to school children in need over the weekend. A book bag program was started for first graders at a local school. The book bags contained books and other goodies to encourage the children to read more at home. Club members delivered the book bags and read to the children. Snacks, small cozy blankets and crocheted hats were donated and delivered to the Johnston County Hospital Cancer Center for the comfort of patients receiving chemotherapy.
A local family was burned out of their home just before Christmas. The Club helped the family by rallying the community to get the family a rental home and other necessities. The Club also provided a Christmas tree and gifts for the three children.
The Club continued to support various local and national organizations with donations: House of Hope, Harbor House, Boys and Girls Home of NC, Military Missions In Action, Flame for Learning, Friends of the Library, Artists in the School and Johnston County Relay for Life.
The Club began a new outreach to women of our community who work during the day and can’t attend our regular daytime meetings. A new chapter of our club was created to accommodate these women. The group named themselves the “Night-N-Gals.” Their projects included collecting food for the Johnston County Senior Center and through KIVA they sponsored a young woman in a third world country as she started a new business.
In August of 2013, our clubhouse, which was erected in 1904, and moved to its present location in 1923, was recognized by the NC State Historical Register as a historic building. We were given a plaque stating that fact, and it is mounted to the front of our clubhouse by the door.
In 2008, the Club partnered with the Clayton Civitan Club to begin a new project, Christmas Kids. The program provides Christmas gifts to needy children in our community.
Beginning in 2008, our club joined with local churches and other civic organizations in a program called “Feed the Need,” a community Thanksgiving dinner. Approximately 1,500 or more people are fed each year at the dinner.
In 2017, the Club began a new fundraiser plant sale. The Club partnered with a master gardener and the Johnston County prison. As a work project, the prisoners planted and nurtured seeds which the Club had furnished. The Club then sold the plants that the prisoners had raised for us.
In 2018, the Club celebrated its centennial anniversary. At the February 2018 Clayton Town Council meeting, a proclamation was read by Mayor Jody McLeod.
Proclamation for 100 years of Service
In early 2020, the world came to a halt in reaction to the highly contagious Covid 19 pandemic. Members held a “Spring Fling Brunch & Fashion Show” fundraiser on March 7th and on March 11th an in-person meeting was held at the clubhouse. Shortly thereafter, Governor Roy Cooper issued a stay-at-home order and gatherings of more than 10 persons were prohibited. Rentals of the clubhouse came to a halt for about a year. This was a difficult time for the club, its members and the Federation, but thanks to computers and the internet, members were able to stay in touch virtually and do some remote projects. A “Virtual Gala” fundraiser raised more than $6500, there was a BBQ Fundraiser that raised more than $3000, and a “Pie in the Sky” fundraiser where members made pies for Thanksgiving that raised $1300. Numerous service projects were also held such as a winter coat drive, purchasing food for Backpack Buddies, performing arts competition, just to name a few. Monthly meetings continued using Zoom into 2021. The first in person meeting was held on May 12, 2021. Normal activities gradually resumed as Covid vaccines became readily available.
The Woman’s Club of Clayton had a very memorable fiscal year 2021-2022 donating a total of $37,151 to various organizations in Johnston County – the most donations in the club’s 104-year history. During this period, the club met one of its objectives: To unite women of Clayton into a charitable and educational organization for the promotion of activities in civic, cultural, educational, and social welfare for the betterment of the community. Donations were made to the following:
Clayton Area Ministries – $8583
Serve the Need Johnston County – $8498
Clayton Community Recreational Foundation for Harmony Playground – $5000 (a total of $15,000 was donated over 3 years)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church for Backpack Buddies Program – $2633
Christmas Kids – $2652
House of Hope – $2000
With Love From Jesus – $2000
Students winning honors during Local Arts Festival – $330
Sallie Southall Cotten Scholarship – $1000
Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library and Friends of the Library – $1650
USO Care Package Program – $855
Johnston County Relay for Life – $450
Harbor House – $450
Boys and Girls Home – $400
Community Back to School Youth Explosion – $350
Senior Wishes – $200
American Heart Association – $100
The Club was able to reach this milestone in large part due to the $25,000 grant awarded to the Club by the Rye Foundation. The Club was awarded the Ray Bryan Award, the highest honor given by the Rye Foundation. Every charitable investment made by the Rye Foundation is required to meet three criteria:
• Every project must help children and youth
• Every project must be in North Carolina
• Every project must have a definite spiritual component
Known throughout North Carolina as a leader in the field of philanthropy, J. Warren Steen has served as President of the Rye Foundation since 2001. Mr. Steen grew up in Clayton and his mother, Mrs. John W. Steen, was President of The Woman’s Club of Clayton from 1967-1969. His father was a former pastor at Clayton First Baptist Church. The Rye Foundation Board voted to make this generous gift in honor of Mrs. John W. Steen, “as a challenge to current members to follow Mrs. Steen’s example of civic involvement and Christian stewardship.”