December 14, 2023

Receiving a $35,898 gift to the Johnston Health Foundation Hospice Fund from Laura Moore, an incorporator of the disbanded Smithfield Junior Woman's Club, are CEO Tom Williams and Vice President April Culver of UNC Health Johnston.

Junior Woman's Club donations are
unexpected gifts for three non-profits

who served as president of the Smithfield Junior Woman's Club 1977-78

Although the Smithfield Junior Woman’s Club disbanded about 11 years ago, members were able to deliver large gifts of money this month to three non-profit organizations.

Immediate Past President Sarah Caldwell, Immediate Past Treasurer Crystal Allen, and an incorporator of the club, Laura Moore, have worked since 2020 to make this happen. Checks for $35,898 each were delivered to Johnston Health Foundation Hospice Fund, Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield, and Johnston County Arts Council because they met the desired qualifications of being tax-exempt non-profits that serve community betterment.

Public Library Director Johnnie Pippin accepts the Junior Woman's Club check from Laura Moore.

Arts Council Director Darlene Williford accepts the club's donation from Mrs. Moore.

The funds came from the sale of the club’s property located on North Second Street in Smithfield. Guy and Pam Lampe who live nearby on the same street purchased the property last August and plan to remodel the building for a residence.

It was built in 1931 by the Smithfield Woman’s Club as a club house and has never been occupied as a residence.

In 1995, the Smithfield Woman’s Club, Inc. conveyed the property to the Smithfield Junior Woman’s Club, Inc. because the senior club was dissolving. The property was the remaining club asset that had to be sold in order to dissolve the corporation.

It is believed that the club house was the only structure built in Smithfield in 1931 in the depths of the Great Depression.

The lot was donated to the Woman’s Club on June 27, 1931 by Mrs. T. R. Crocker, a former Smithfield citizen and close friend of Mrs. H. L. Skinner, a past club president.

When the club voted in February 1931 to construct a new club house, it agreed to spend $4,000 because that was the value of the Building and Loan shares the club had been carrying. The club had selected a lot for construction but abandoned it when costs to prepare the lot were too expensive. Upon receiving the donation of a better-located lot from the Crockers, construction began. It was completed in December. Mrs. T. J. Lassiter Sr. (Rena) was president of the club that year.

An open house was held at the new club building in early January 1932 and, according to a Smithfield Herald story, "more than 150 guests called during the evening despite the inclement weather." The house was remodeled in 1979 by club members and husbands using funds raised by two community homes tours. In 2001, the club again held a campaign to "renovate and enhance our 70-year-old Smithfield historic landmark." It was called a "This Old House Reception."

Through the years, the building was used by the community for dances, receptions, family reunions, dinners, music recitals, art contests, bridge parties, and birthday celebrations in addition to many civic meetings.

The Smithfield Junior Woman’s Club – sponsored by the Woman’s Club – was organized on September 12, 1945 by 15 charter members with Mrs. J. J. Broadhurst serving as president, Mrs. Thel Hooks Jr. vice president, Mrs. Ed Boyette recording secretary, Mrs. Bernadette Hoyle corresponding secretary, and Mrs. Brack Wilson treasurer. Other charter members were Delia Ellington, Mattie Lassiter, Mrs. Bill Upchurch, Mrs. Fred Gardner, Mrs. Sam Cooper, Mrs. Frank Skinner, Mrs. T. J. Lassiter Jr., Mrs. James Hill, Mrs. Henry Johnston, and Mrs. Rufus Crumpler. Initially, the club met in the homes of members but quickly outgrew that and began meeting at the club house.

The club was elected to membership in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1946 and was open to women between the ages of 18 and 35 (later expanding to age 40). The club was incorporated as a charitable organization in 1974 when Laura Moore was president.

In the beginning, the Smithfield Junior Woman’s Club was active in community projects such as organizing a PTA in the Smithfield schools and supporting The Salvation Army, Public Library, and Girl Scouts. The Junior Women helped erect the Girl Scout Hut off South Second Street in 1950 and later remodeled it in 1974. An annual event was the Halloween Carnival, first held in 1947 in the American Legion Hut and then moved to a tobacco warehouse. It was finally moved to South Third Street Downtown where it took place for several years.

In early years, the club maintained interests in community beautification by supporting projects for the Town Commons Park and landscaping at local schools.  One of the most significant projects co-sponsored by the Junior Club and the Woman’s Club was "The Smithfield Plan" in 1964. The plan involved 25 improvement projects for Downtown renovation. The clubs were joined in the effort by the Smithfield Chamber of Commerce, Town Board, and other service groups.

The Junior Woman’s Club always had interests in the care of children and service to parents. Projects included support of the Children’s Home Society of N.C., Well Baby Clinic at the Health Department, and the March of Dimes. In the 1950s, they campaigned for free polio vaccination clinics. In 1958, club members appeared before the Smithfield Town Board to request appropriation for the addition of fluoride to the town’s drinking water to protect children’s teeth.

The Public Library was a favored project and for years the club gave books to the library in honor of babies born to club members. In 1978 and 1979 the club sponsored "Reading Is Fundamental" at South Smithfield Primary School – a program that gave three books to every student.

Later years saw the club advocating for clean water and conservation of natural resources, safety, promotion of fine arts, and pursuit of peace and international understanding. In 1965, a permanent scholarship was established to be awarded to a Smithfield graduating senior in need of financial assistance to continue his or her education. The final scholarship was presented in 2002.

Smithfield Juniors traditionally supported "Operation Santa Claus" and The Salvation Army, once spearheading a drive to purchase a bus for its program. They actively worked with the Hastings House Association to restore the house and move it to Front Street. Through the years, the club championed school-bond referendums.

A popular club fundraiser was the annual fall "Shopping Spree" where vendors rented spaces from the club to sell their wares. This began in 1996, first held in Centenary Church’s Wesley Hall, next moving to the National Guard Armory, then to the Johnston Community College auditorium, and finally to the Medical Mall.  Proceeds were given to local programs.

Clubs for high school girls – known as "Sub-Juniors" – were first organized by the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1960, and one was established in Smithfield. Later named the "Smithfield Juniorettes," the club flourished for 50 years, assisting the Junior Woman’s Club as well as running service projects of their own.

Both the Woman’s Club and the Junior Woman’s Club have remarkable histories of service. In one of its final publications, the Junior Club described its mission as "a civic organization committed to enhancing the quality of life in our community through volunteer service and financial contributions while providing an opportunity for life-long learning and fellowship among women.”

Both clubs certainly filled a century with good deeds.