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Women's Community League of Weston
Building Community Since 1919

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WCL Makes A Mark

Cheryl Balian Scaparrotta  | Published on 3/4/2019
Wellesley Weston Magazine - Spring 2019 Issue


Building Community

WOMEN’S COMMUNITY LEAGUE OF WESTON MAKES MARK



Writer: CHERYL BALIAN SCAPARROTTA
(Print Issue: page 102; Digital edition click here)

If you don’t know of them, you should.

Countless volunteer hours, impactful funding, and a vibrant membership distinguish the Women’s Community League of Weston (WCL).  This year, the venerable group celebrates 100 glorious years of contributions to the citizens of Weston. They are the oldest service organization in town, and it might surprise you how deep their roots are.

“We’re embedded,” confirms Regina Hajjar, the current president. “Our mission is to foster community spirit, enhance the intellectual and social life of the community, and help with community needs.”

When you examine the organization’s long history, it’s entirely appropriate to say the foundation of modern Weston was laid by the WCL.

For starters, the League began the lunch program in the Weston Public Schools almost a century ago. Yes, you read that correctly. “We started furnishing milk to needy children in the schools in 1925, and in 1929, the WCL set up kitchens for an entire hot lunch program,” says Hajjar. “Eventually the town took them over.” 

But wait: there’s more.

“Five years after that, we funded a school bus for Weston kindergarteners,” she states.

Most recently, the WCL hosted a Winter Festival on the Town Green, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a while. Hundreds of townsfolk came together last December to participate in traditional festivities like ice skating, caroling, and eating s’mores. In the true spirit of community, other venerable groups were invited to play a role, such as Weston Boy Scout Troop 157 and Girl Scout Troops 75453, 85220, 85265, 73084, as well as the high school band, the PTO, and Weston Dads. The high note of the celebration was the tree lighting in front of Weston Town Hall.

“We wanted to celebrate our centennial in a way that is true to our mission, so we reached out to all town organizations,” Hajjar says. “It was the inaugural event for our centennial. The idea was to develop a continuing tradition and showcase the many organizations in Weston.”   


 



While the Winter Festival honored 100 years of service, it doesn’t begin to tell the WCL story. Over the years, the organization has donated almost $1 million across town. “In the educational area, we have a huge Service and Scholarships program. We give approximately $15,000-$20,000 per year to students, which makes us by far the largest contributor to Weston High scholars,” Hajjar points out. 

“I’m so proud to be a member of WCL and wish that every Weston woman would become one— even if just to financially support the organization,” enthuses Leslye Fligor, a past president and current chair of the events committee. “I’m a believer that any ‘great place to live’ is enhanced by people’s involvement, and I’m happy to be a part of an organization whose charter includes fundraising for scholarships and community needs as they arise.” 

Without a doubt, WCL fingerprints are everywhere you turn. 




HISTORY COMES ALIVE

The WCL began in a Weston church basement, as a local solution to a global need. “They were located there for many years,” Hajjar says. “Originally, 13 women in town gathered during World War I to roll bandages, knit sweaters, and help those who were really hurting—that’s how the organization began.”

The League did much the same during World War II. “After the Second World War, members wanted to keep meeting with a mission, because while doing good, they also enjoyed the social benefits of getting together,” she explains.

Today, the WCL is headquartered in the Josiah Smith Barn in Weston Center, a structure that the League has helped maintain for decades. “We have been in the Barn since 1945 and have been very good stewards of it,” Hajjar imparts. “We’ve updated it by redoing the flooring, lighting, electrical, heating, and kitchen facilities, bringing it to the Barn we know today.” In the mid-1970s and 1980s, the League spent its own money, approximately $100,000, supported by the skills of a member who was an architect and donated her expertise, to update it.

One of the best-known WCL events at the Barn that’s open to the public is the weekly clothing exchange and café on Tuesdays from September to May. “Between 30 and 40 volunteers contribute to the effort every Tuesday, and the money from the consignment store goes into our scholarship fund,” Hajjar notes.


Not surprisingly, the clothing exchange started in the 1940s to help with the clothing shortage during World War II, especially for children. Today, intrepid shoppers can find high-quality clothing from Chanel to Tiffany.

The Barn is also the welcoming headquarters for WCL meetings, including multiple social and educational events. “We have a garden club, speakers series, and potluck friendsgiving feast,” Hajjar says.

The WCL’s garden club’s top-notch programs include lectures and demonstrations on gardening subjects, day trips, and workshops. It’s affiliated with 200 other garden clubs in the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts.

“These social activities are a way to make lasting friends,” emphasizes Marcia Lipson, who since joining the WCL more than 40 years ago, is one of the longest-serving members. She’s held many leadership positions over the decades, including president of the League from 2006 to 2008, and currently is the group’s resident historian. “I’m very proud and pleased to belong for so many years.”

The rich legacy of the WCL is seen virtually everywhere you go in Weston. In the public library, there’s a room sponsored by the WCL. Grants to the Recreation Center are numerous, including support to the Council on Aging, with a $5,000 grant toward a bus, and more than $40,000 total to the group over 20 years. Another fun fact: “We provided the first Mac computer to the Fire Department, and we underwrote the first police computers for their cars,” Hajjar says. In the same spirit, the WCL provided funding for a backup ambulance in town. In addition, the WCL provided playground grants over the years to Alphabet Field and Tavernside Park. The WCL also provided support to the Middle School’s new Memorial Garden for Christina Dangond, an 11-year-old student who succumbed to cancer in 2018. 

The WCL has also granted monies to veteran services in town, holiday gift bags for the elderly, Land’s Sake Farm, Weston Drama Workshop, the Weston Media Center, and the Weston High School dance team. 

FUTURE PERFECT


With such a long legacy of passion and purpose, the WCL’s future looks bright. “This fall, we’re going to end our centennial year with a gala,” Hajjar reveals. “We’re reintroducing our Chrysanthemum Ball, which draws upon our history.”

Meanwhile, a whole new website was launched in 2018, to bring the WCL seamlessly into the 21st century.

The only uncertainty they face is the future of the Josiah Smith Tavern building, the historic structure in Weston Center that has proven to be essential to WCL operations. Last year, the Weston Board of Selectmen extended the WCL’s lease, so the clothing exchange is open at the Barn through June 4. Beyond that, operations are uncertain, as the Barn undergoes additional renovations for re-use.

With the identity of the Women’s Community League tied so closely to the Barn, it’s hoped that the good works organization will continue energetically functioning at that location. After all, fostering community spirit is the overarching goal.

And one of the longest-serving members agrees. “I could not find a better organization to belong to,” concludes Lipson. Membership is open to all women residing in Weston.