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Woman's Club seeks all ages

Current members range from 60s to 90s, but new blood will be needed to sustain organization.

March 07, 2012|By Michael Miller

As a neighborhood debate raged over whether the Woman's Club of Huntington Beach should be allowed to rebuild its headquarters, Gina Rose Fedak joined others in gathering signatures declaring support for the group's plan.

At the same time, Fedak is hoping to bring the century-old club something it may need even more than a roof over its head.

The Surf City resident has set out to entice women of all ages — primarily younger ones — to join the club. With nearly all of the group's 49 members in their late 60s or older, leaders are concerned that their charitable efforts will eventually die out unless a younger generation takes over.

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"This is a community effort," Fedak said. "This is not just for the elderly. It's not just for my generation. It's for all future generations together."

The club, which operated out of an old wooden headquarters at 420 10th St. until an April 30 fire left it homeless, has long supported charities and other groups around Orange County. Officials from the Huntington Beach Youth Shelter, Orangewood Children's Foundation and Huntington Beach Art Center, among others, said the club has donated proceeds to them.

Without its clubhouse to rent out to raise funds, the nonprofit has mostly halted its philanthropic activities.

A new facility, which the Planning Commission approved last month, would solve that problem at least partially, although Treasurer Rosemary Trout said some of the commission's conditions, which include limits on open hours and attendance, would make it harder to entice renters.

The commission imposed those rules in response to neighbors who complained that the clubhouse was a noise and parking nuisance. The club rented its headquarters out consistently to bring in funds, and residents complained of loud parties and drunkenness at the site during some events.

Regardless of the conditions, the club's leaders intend to rebuild. Trout said the group plans to host fundraisers to pay for the construction, and community members have already donated items to sell at a rummage sale.

But even if the venue works out, the club will need help from members as much as renters. Trout, who has headed its insurance and business affairs since the fire, is 90; the other paying members, except for Fedak, range from their late 60s to early 90s, according to Trout and President Jackie Judd.

"I tell them all, at our age, our bodies are giving out," Trout said. "I'm very grateful that my mind is still staying alert. But I think that's because I have to push it and do so blooming much."

Fedak said she had spoken to women of every age group "from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and up" about becoming members. In addition, she said, her 13-year-old daughter was rallying peers to create a youth cadet level for the organization.

Among those rooting for the club's preservation is Darlene DeAngelo, the curator of the art center, which the group has supported monetarily and used as a meeting site in the past.

"I really adore the Woman's Club," DeAngelo said. "They've always been so supportive."

michael.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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