HOLTVILLE — For its loyal members, the Woman’s Club of Holtville has taken on the status of a landmark institution and has proven itself a treasured refuge, especially in light of the shelter-in-place orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom last month that has kept the thriving group from meeting.
Since gatherings of 10 or more are people have been indefinitely suspended to halt the spread of the coronavirus, members of the Woman’s Club have demonstrated a resourcefulness to confront the isolation rather than acquiesce to the lock-down.
“It’s not a real hardship, but socially, I miss these ladies and I miss our bridge games,” admitted Deb Thornburg, club president. “But it would truly be harder without the Internet.”
Club meetings and activities have been curtailed until the state or the county Public Health Department gives an all-clear to resume public gatherings again.
Thornburg has been averaging once-a-week email to the membership to keep them posted on each other’s activities. So far, the club has missed April’s meeting and will likely forego May’s monthly meeting.
Canceled Events Mean Less Social Outreach
“We’ll miss our May yard sale and canceled the March spaghetti dinner, one of our major fundraisers,” she said. “Along with our soup and sweets dinner (held February and March), we usually raise from $1,000 to $1,200 per event that goes back into club activities. Fortunately, we’re still in a good place financially. And only a few of us lack email, but we manage to contact everyone.”
Those fundraisers also support the Woman’s Club three scholarship funds.
The first is a general scholarship for those graduating Holtville High School. The second supports any student going into a medical field including nursing. The third, assists adults returning to college to get into a different field or college juniors or seniors needing a little help.
Typically, the fund is large enough to provide three scholarships in each category.
“We’ll miss the ceremony in May, but our scholarship chair, Mary Jane Kirchenbauer, will notify the recipients and mail each a check,” said Thornburg.
She also informs members about others dealing with a health issue or club budget updates.
“We just had a member move back to Boston,” Thornburg said. “And I recently found we had a leak in the roof, so I already talked to a contractor who recommended we wait for the warmer weather so the slurry seal will seep into the cracks more efficiently.”
Members Devote More Time to Hobbies
Although an active Woman’s Club member, even with more idle time, Bunny Hartshorn finds there are still not enough hours in the day. She cares for her three indoor cats as well as 11 feral cats whose leftover bowls she was cleaning from her patio when contacted by phone.
“A group of us from St. Paul’s Church quilter’s club are sewing surgical masks and donating them to AccentCare,” said Hartshorn. “But Deb is staying in touch by email and phone.”
For longtime member Wanda Layton, family fills the barren social space. Her son, Larry, accompanied her on a trip to the Tumco mines north of Felicity in eastern Imperial County recently.
A boom town of 500 people from 1880 to 1900, when gold mining was still good, the nearby settlement is a ghost town now. She then visited her son, Richard, who was camping nearby with his wife and their grandchildren, where they can see the mines off in the distance.
“I call some of the members, Virginia Munger; she’s 102 years old now,” said Layton, “She loves her bridge games. And gosh, yes, I miss the bridge games, too. It’s getting a little boring being at home. But I got a big yard and I love doing yard work more than housework. I also love reading mysteries.”
Ruth Chambers, an avid gardener who also volunteers to keep up the Woman’s Club with plants ringing the front of the building and has been doing a little trimming of her home potted plants since the early April rains spurred considerable growth.
“I do a lot of Kalanchoe (a succulent flowering plant); it tolerates a lot of heat and it’s just blooming,” said Chambers. “It’s mostly in red but I got cuttings from Dorothy Kelly that I grew in pots.”
Day Trips a Chance to Rediscover Valley’s Beauty
Chambers has filled her time this spring taking day trips on county Route S2 north of Ocotillo to see the Rock Daisy and Monkey Flower plants going up to Blair Valley. She also drove toward Anza-Borrego Springs on S2 following the route the Pony Express riders formerly took.
“The Desert Lavender smells beautiful along the S2 and there’s lots of it,” said Chambers. “And the Desert Five Spot is pink with magenta spots and delicate leaves, similar to begonias, one of the majestic wildflowers.”
Meanwhile, for the final Woman’s Club meeting on March 11, they had an outing to Brawley to visit Joanie Moore, who has been on the Cattle Call Rodeo Committee since 1988.
“Her father competed in roping events and she was a former Cattle Call Queen,” Chambers said. “We drove around the arena, which is very popular now with people getting out their houses for their exercise.”
Pam Edwards, who helps run the Carrot Festival cooking competition, praised Thornburg for sending out emails. Edwards texts and emails other members but admits she cannot contact everybody.
She noted many of the Woman’s Club members are at heightened risk to the pandemic because of their age and must take the stay-at-home orders seriously. Yet she explained it will be great when they can all gather in their usual group again once guidelines can be modified.
“I live out in the country and I got family who help deliver groceries,” said Edwards. “And they brought my grand-kids over and they all waved from my front yard. I have one granddaughter who read to me a favorite story on the FaceTime app. But I’m a big hugger, and I really miss hugging everybody.”