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Pine Grove Women's Club caps off 100 years of giving back

Members of the Pine Grove Women's Club are preparing for a centennial celebration at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pine Grove Presbyterian Church, followed by a covered dish dinner at noon at the community house. Here, members admire some of the artwork club members have created over the years, as well as other art that has been donated to the club. Shown here are longtime members, seated, from left, Lillian Whisnante, a member for 75 years, and Jewell Hitchcock, a member for 58 years. In back are Billie Cain, club historian who has been a member for 20 years, and Margaret Ozburn, a member for 52 years.

Members of the Pine Grove Women's Club are preparing for a centennial celebration at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pine Grove Presbyterian Church, followed by a covered dish dinner at noon at the community house. Here, members admire some of the artwork club members have created over the years, as well as other art that has been donated to the club. Shown here are longtime members, seated, from left, Lillian Whisnante, a member for 75 years, and Jewell Hitchcock, a member for 58 years. In back are Billie Cain, club historian who has been a member for 20 years, and Margaret Ozburn, a member for 52 years.

COVINGTON -- The Pine Grove Women's Club is celebrating a century of service to its beloved community Saturday when the 36 current members will take a look back at days gone by and gear up for the next 100 years.

For those who "aren't from around here," the Pine Grove community is located off Ga. Highway 229 between the Brick Store and Newborn. Originally known as Shoal Creek, the community was centered around the Shoal Creek Baptist Church, thought to have been established in the early 1830s. The community took on the name Pine Grove in the early 1880s after a school was built in a forest of pines.

Saturday's celebration, which will take place at Pine Grove Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m., followed by a reunion and dinner on the grounds at the Pine Grove Community House, will include tributes to the community as a whole because, after all, the club was formed to serve the community.

Several of the club's oldest members -- Lillian Whisnante, Jewell Hitchcock and Margaret Ozburn -- recalled their lives as members of the club for more than half a century.

Whisnante, who has officially been a member for 75 years, said the club has always been a part of her life.

"I've just about come to the club ever since it was organized. My mother was one of the charter members," the 95-year-old said. "I went to the club with her when I was a kid and just grew up in it."

She said as a child she'd help serve refreshments and she recalled one member in particular who'd say when it came her turn to host the meeting, "'Lillian has to come help me do it.' And I'd go spend the day with her and help with the refreshments."

Whisnante remembers that first Pine Grove school and the day in 1926 when it burned to the ground. It seems some men of the community were waging war against a nest of wasps that had established residence in the school rafters. Two of the men opted to torch them despite warnings from others, Whisnante's father among them, that setting the nest ablaze was not prudent. Those against the action were proven right when the school caught fire.

"They just stood there and watched it. There wasn't anything in the world they could do. They didn't have fire service back then," Whisnante said.

The next school was established where the current community house now stands.

Whisnante said the club was established in 1910 to educate the homemakers of the community and acquaint them with the most modern and up-to-date conveniences, as well as give them a social outlet. The organization of the club can be traced back to the Tomato Club for young girls, counterpart to the boys' Corn Club, both of which were the forerunners of the 4-H Clubs, which were first established in Newton County by School Superintendent Grady C. Adams.

For many years, County Extension Service agents presented programs to the club on everything from grooming to nutrition.

Whisnante recalled the advent of the pressure canner which the Pine Grove Women's Club members embraced with a vengeance.

"When the pressure canners came, the Extension agent introduced us to them and the club bought one. And, we used it ... this one had it today and that one tomorrow and that one over there the next day," she said. "We planned our canning by what day we could have the pressure canner. A lot of folks got a heap of good out of it."

Jewell Hitchcock graduated from Covington High School and when she married, moved into a home in the Pine Grove community, where she still resides. She has been a member of the women's club for 58 years.

In the early days, the club met in members' homes, at the Pine Grove Presbyterian Church and the Burge Plantation, Hitchcock recalled. But in 1960, the club moved into its own home, the Pine Grove Community House, where it still meets today. The land was donated by Mrs. E.F. (Lena) Cooper in 1958 and the women raised the needed funds for the building and the men pitched in where they could.

"We had a person lay the cement blocks and then the men in the community put the roof on and all that stuff," Hitchcock said. "Later we added the two bathrooms."

The women attacked the fundraising effort the way they did other things -- no holds barred.

"We baked cakes and took them to town and sold them in front of the grocery store, and just a lot of things," Hitchcock said, adding they served meals to the Mansfield Lions Club and other community organizations. "I remember making biscuits for the Lion's Club. And Elizabeth Hitchcock (her late sister-in-law) did all the writing of letters and contacting people for donations. She's been gone for a long time, but she was in this community and very devoted to it."

Margaret Ozburn joined the club in the 1950s and she recalls the "home demonstration" information the farmer's wives received during the meetings was very meaningful and made their lives easier.

"We still had a county agent then. Hazel Malone was the county agent when I came," she said. "She would come down and demonstrate different things and give us lectures on nutrition and food preservation, clothing, education and health, all those different things."

One of the favorite events of the year was the Pine Grove Women's Club booth at the county fair.

"A main theme would be picked and members would enter their homemade items such as clothes, canned food, crafts, fresh vegetables, etc. Many first-place blue ribbons were won," she said.

Through the years the club supported 4-H, held an all-day Christmas celebration for the community, a summer picnic, took day trips and supported several charitable organizations.

In the 1970s, the home demonstration aspect of the Extension Service was phased out and the club began creating its own programs, using the expertise of its own members, as well as special guests. Ozburn recalls that one member taught an art class and others learned to quilt.

And Ozburn wants residents to know the Newton County Extension Service is still available to answer questions and offer assistance. Ted Wynne is the agent, and he can be reached at 770-784-2010.

Today, Women's Club members still arrange programs of interest, and according to Billie Cain, a newcomer of only 20 years membership, the usual format is "we meet; we have a little program and eat and then eat some more."

The club now meets the second Wednesday of each month, either at noon or 2 p.m. depending on the agenda.

"When I moved here, Ruby Nell Gross was still alive and she invited me to join. I would have had no means to get to know these ladies without being a member here," she said. "I started coming and I have just loved it. It is such a sense of community even though we don't live right next to each other, we are a strong community and we do support each other."

The club has its own lending library; it hosts a tea each October for residents at Covington Manor; it has a salad luncheon each August at the Burge Plantation courtesy of Betsy Morehouse, who is a member of the club; and at Christmas a luncheon is held at the home of Bill Hodges.

Saturday's celebration is for all, past and present, who have roots in the Pine Grove Community. Those with family connections and all residents of the community are invited to come, bring a covered dish and enjoy the reunion. The rain date for the event is May 15.