WJWL marks 50 years

HOWLAND — The GFWC Ohio Warren Junior Women’s League is marking its 50th anniversary of providing community improvement through volunteer service.

The group, which started in 1966, has given 833,000 volunteer hours and donated $867,000 to the community. The membership has grown to more than 100 members.

The theme for the 50 years is “A Legacy of Giving and Living. The Volunteer Spirit” and included a banquet held at the Avalon Inn.

Dee Scerba of Warren, a past president who has been with the club since 1969, said she remembers representing the WJWL on the bicentennial commission in Warren in 1976.

She said a community improvement project was for the WJWL to redo the fountain at Courthouse Square in Warren.

”The bird for the fountain was purchased in 1975. We didn’t pay the whole cost but gave a third of it,” Scerba said.

Fran Cunningham, the club’s first president from 1966 to 1968 and a 50-year member, said the group started with 20 members and the second year was at 34 members.

“I always remember the Follies. It was so exciting and we had more than 100 people participate. We raised $5,000 one year,” she said.

Cunnningham said she remembers the  “Paint the Town Pink” event held the first year at Harding High School and then it moved the second year to John F. Kennedy High School and then to Packard Music Hall when it got bigger.

She said the event was the club’s biggest fundraiser, with proceeds helping those in need.

Sandy Saluga, a 48-year member, said she remembers when the club brought talk-show host Phil Donahue to Warren in September 1981.

“It was during the height of his show and there was a lot of controversy. It was a fundraiser that helped Someplace Safe buy a home. The newspaper gave him front page coverage,” Saluga said.

Cunningham said it is amazing how much the club has been able to do for the community over 50 years.

”It is hard to believe we have lasted 50 years. We used to say it was the best damn organization in the land,” she said.

Stephanie Furano said the WJWL is known for the champagne luncheon fundraiser held each November.

”We have members with diverse backgrounds and careers. There are Realtors, a news anchor, entrepreneurs, teachers and all walks of life,” she said.

Saluga said being in the club has provided confidence to the members to enter different fields.

Julie Vugrinovich, current president, said she cherishes the formation of the Warren Juniorettes for girls ages 12 to 17. The group was started in memory of her sister, Jamie Jo McAllister,who was a member for a couple of years.

Vugrinovich has been the head of the Juniorettes for 21 years and a club member 25 years.

”Mentoring the girls and teaching them about leadership brings many good memories,” she said.

The group has helped at the Kinsman House, Women’s Equality Day, Taste of Trumbull, Northeast Ohio Adoption Services, Make A Difference Day and Apple for Teachers program.

Furano said the group decorated a bridge in Vienna with 60 flags to honor veterans.

“That project was close to a lot of people’s hearts. That project alone had a lot of thank yous and brought community awareness and pride to us,” Furano said.

The club held their very first meeting Oct. 26, 1966 at the Town and Country Restaurant. WJWL members have an opportunity to develop leadership skills, exchange ideas and form lifelong friendships.

The GFWC Ohio Warren Junior Women’s League is affiliated with the international General Federation of Women’s Clubs and GFWC Ohio.

The Federated Warren Women’s Club was a well-established organization when it was decided a similar organization was needed for younger women. In the summer of 1966, a committee met and the Warren Junior Women’s League was born.

Since 1966, the league has raised more than $620,000 for community charity projects and volunteered more than 600,000 hours.

An active member attends six general monthly meetings per year and serves on a designated community service committee.