Philaco Woman’s Club looks to its future

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It’s one of the county’s oldest volunteer groups, dating more back than 125 years, and while it’s understandably graying, it’s not lost its vision, and is still listening acutely to the needs of the community.

The Philaco Woman’s Club, at its annual recognition luncheon, held at the Fellowship Baptist Church May 12, the club presented its scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, to Franklin County High School Valedictorian Sage Brannan, who plans to pursue a nursing career at Florida State University,

In keeping with its commitment to libraries, a commitment that gave birth to this local branch of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the chapter also presented $250 checks to both the PALS group of friends of the Apalachicola Margaret Key Library, represented by Jan Thomas, and to Friends of the Franklin County Library, represented by Pam Tullous.

“Philaco has a commitment to volunteer service with a view toward local community involvement,” said Rachel Chesnut, president.

In announcing the awards, Treasurer Monica Lemieux reviewed some of the community activities, such as putting together fruit baskets for senior citizens at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The club has also presented $250 checks to Big Bend Hospice, the Franklin County Schools’ Backpack Buddies weekend meal program; and the Elder Care Community Council.

In 1896, 21 prominent Apalachicola women formed “The Woman’s Reading Club” and the first

book purchased was “The Library of American Literature. In 1899, the ladies purchased 19 volumes from the library of famed botanist Dr. Alvan Chapman and shortly thereafter the club reported ordering Dickens Works, 15 volumes that soon grew the volumes owned to more than 80 books.

In 1904, the club adopted the name of PHILACO, PHIL for love, AC for bravery and O for strength and dignity. The collection continued to grow, and in 1915 the Philaco Woman’s Club established a public library above the Methodist Church Sunday School room with 300 donated books plus a sum of money.

By 1923, when the collection had grown to 2,000 volumes, the old City Hall plus $600 was donated to Philaco, and the building was moved to the northeast corner of Battery Park. The club maintained this building until 1944 when, along with $700 for repairs, it was deeded to the city to be used as a Youth Center.

In 1949 the club reported on their project of moving a small pump house from the Air Force base to Apalachicola for use as a Philaco-owned library. In the mid-to-late '50s the city gave Philaco permission to spearhead a project of raising funds for a new library. In 1964 the old building was sold for $130, and with the help of government grants, a new library was built.

In 1996, when Margaret Key, the Philaco Woman’s Club president from 1943-44, died, she left all tangible and real property to the Apalachicola Municipal Library. About a decade later, those funds would be used to complete the project. Philaco continues to recommend candidates for the library board to the city commission for approval. 

In 2011, the city presented the club a resolution of appreciation honoring its 115 years of service to the community.

Chesnut said the club continues to seek new members who are interested in being involved in the community. “My great-grandmother, Rosalie Hawkins Wakefield, was a charter member in 1896,” she said. “It has been an honor to serve as president of Philaco 125 years later.”

Serving as vice president is Jackie Bell, Connie Finneran as corresponding secretary, Marcia Johnson as recording secretary, Monica Lemieux as treasurer, and Marilyn Hogan as historian.

To find out more about the Philaco Woman’s Club, email gfwcphilacowomansclub@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page.

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