BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. — One of the best kept secrets in the township may be the Woman’s Club. As a philanthropic group, its work often makes the news, but there is much more to the service club than raising money. The club hosts speakers, members play bridge and mahjong, knit lap blankets for veterans, caps for babies, make holiday crafts and more.
TAPinto interviewed Woman’s Club President Phyllis McEnroe recently to find out more about the club. First, McEnroe explained the correct name of the club is “the Woman’s Club of Berkeley Heights, no E,” and it is part of the “New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs,” with an E, which is part of “The General Federation of Women’s Club,” an international organization. The New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs is “largest volunteer women's service organization in the state,” according to its website. Other women’s clubs in the area include the Thursday Morning Club in Madison and The Fortnightly Club in Summit.
The Woman’s Club of Berkeley Heights was founded in March 1955 by Ellie Hicks, joined the NJSFWC in April 1955 and incorporated in April 1962. The purpose of the club was to “stimulate interest in liberal education, in national and world affairs, and in social community betterment,” according to the club’s records. The first meeting was held in the public library with 27 women attending. Later they met at Diamond Hill Church, Westminster Church, then the library. Before the Pandemic hit, they were meeting at Faith Lutheran Church in New Providence.
Since its founding club membership has fluctuated - there were 134 members in the daytime group and 51 members in the evening group in 1975. Last year there were 49 members, and the pandemic has limited the number of in-person activities. “We don’t know what will happen this year," she said. But change is part of the history of the Woman’s Club. For many years, being in the club was a lot like being in a sorority, she said. There are still members who remember when women “wore white gloves, heels and suits when they got together. They were dressed to the nines,” she said. Membership was by invitation only, but that has changed.
In the last 20 years, things have become more relaxed and people not just from Berkeley Heights, but throughout the area can join the group. “There is no need to be personally invited. Simply call and find out about the club,” then show up for a meeting, if it seems like a good fit,” McEnroe said. Interested parties can call 908-508-0440 or 908-578-6809. The first meeting of the spring is today, April 20, at noon, at Columbia Park, in the Pavilion. The next meeting will be in May and the mayor has been invited to attend.
The club raises funds for many organizations, and donates a variety of homemade and holiday baskets to organizations. Recently members had a Bakeless Bake Sale for the Rescue Squad, in which 29 women raised $720. “It was a success,” she said.
In previous years, members helped raise funds for Bicentennial Park on Park Avenue, provided support for Project Protect and, this year, the club held an essay contest for fourth and fifth-grade students in Berkeley Heights. This was the club’s first essay contest and there were 27 entries. There will be two winners, one will receive a $50 gift card, the other, a $35 gift card. The students wrote on the topic, “If I could make the world a better place, I would …”
McEnroe has been president of the club for almost two years, since September 2019, after serving as first vice president. She joined the club several years earlier, after the death of her husband. “I was looking for things to do and saw a showcase of crafts created by members of the Berkeley Heights Woman’s Club at the library, and a sign, ‘If interested in joining call, with a phone number.’” she said. About a month later, she called and learned the first meeting of the year would be in September and was invited to come. She attended that meeting and many more, while making good friends and really enjoying the club. “I like doing things with people in the community and I like getting together with people,” she said, and she especially liked “having things to do during the day. I wish I had known about the club before I did.”
To find out more, call 908-508-0440 or 908-578-6809.