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Woman’s Civic Club:
More than a century of service to Pagosa

What organizations in Pagosa Springs can you think of that have been active continuously for over 100 years?

One of these civic groups, and perhaps the only one, is the Woman’s Civic Club of Pagosa Springs. A group of ladies began meeting informally as early as 1907, and formed the club in 1910.

What were they doing back then?

A group of literary-minded women opened and ran the first public library here in the basement of the Methodist Church in 1907. In 1910, the Civic Club was officially formed and the members took over the operation of the library as volunteers. At this time, the library, which had been the private library of a local attorney, had a collection of 202 books. Club members served in this capacity until 1966 when the first paid library staff member was hired.

As the town began to grow, so did the need for a larger location for the library. It was the Civic Club members who began the efforts for the library to have its own home. The next move was to a log cabin, then to one room of the tiny Town Hall at the corner of Lewis Street and U.S. 160 where the bell tower now stands. The library continued to share space there with town officials until 1989.

Over the years, the ladies sponsored many fund-raisers, with the ultimate goal of having a permanent home for the library, in its own location.

As an example of these fund-raisers, the following excerpt was printed in the “75 years ago” column of the Pagosa Springs Sun regarding a 1930 event: “A splendid musical will be presented to the public at the school auditorium on Thursday, June 26. The best talent obtainable will be heard, and the proceeds are for the benefit of the public library.”

In 1989, largely due to money raised by this hard working, enterprising group of women, the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library was opened at the corner of U.S. 160 and South 8th Street. This building was expanded and remodeled in 2005 to help alleviate further “growing pains.” The Civic Club ladies were primary fund-raisers for this project, as well as all previous ones.

What have the ladies been doing since then?

They have recognized the continued needs of the library. With continued growth of the town and the tremendous advances in technology, efforts have been made to help our library keep pace with materials and programs that are important to patrons. As a result of continued fund-raising efforts, the club has been able to purchase items such as, but not limited to, computers, software, AV equipment, window coverings, bookshelves, staff furniture and comfortable seating for patrons, as well as books.

How has this relatively small group been able to accomplish so much?

For the last 35 years its primary fund-raiser has been the annual Woman’s Civic Club Bazaar which is held on the first Saturday of November. In the first year of the bazaar, and for a few years following, the ladies made all the gifts that were then offered for sale. Many readers will remember the bazaar when it expanded to include local artists and crafters as well as club members. This event was always held at the Extension Building at the county fairgrounds. Eventually the demand for more craftperson and artist space, and the growing popularity of the bazaar, was more than could be housed at the Extension Building. Since 2002, this shopping extravaganza has been held at the community center.

How does this event work?

The club rents space to vendors who keep all the profits from their individual sales. The majority of the money raised from booth rentals, the sale of raffle tickets, the bake sale, the silent auction and at the popular “Civic Club Café” is used to fund special projects for the library. The club does, however, also support other worthwhile organizations on a limited basis. This month, for example, the group enjoyed helping to prepare and serve the weekly lunch at Loaves and Fishes.

The 35th annual bazaar is only a little over a week away. Doors will open at 9 a.m. sharp on Saturday, Nov. 7, and customers will be able to “shop until they drop,” until 3 p.m. This year, the bazaar has attracted interest from new artists as well as returning ones. In addition to all the booths in the main room of the Ross Aragon Community Center there will be nine talented vendors in the arts and crafts room and seven more in the south conference room just inside the front door. Be sure to visit all three rooms.

The bazaar primarily features artists and crafters who will offer handmade items, but there are also several longtime “anchor” commercial vendors who will be filling out the venue. This year there are 71 booths. However, there are more than 71 individuals participating, as two or more sellers are sharing booth space in many instances. This is unofficially the kickoff event of the holiday season that gets people thinking about gift giving. Can you imagine having all our holiday shopping done by the first week in November? Here is your chance!

The raffle and bake sale tables will be located in the lobby, just as you enter the building. Club members have been busy in their kitchens creating delicious baked goods. They have also been gathering items for basket giveaways and other raffle items. There will be three of the famous $50 money wreaths for you to take chances on. Many of the artists and crafters have also graciously donated raffle and silent auction items. Raffle tickets are available from club members, at the checkout desk at the library, and, of course, at the bazaar. This year 2,500 tickets have been printed. When these are sold no more will be made available, so don’t wait too long to make your purchase. The price remains $1 each or six tickets for $5. Winning names will be drawn at the close of the bazaar at 3 p.m.

This is the third year for the silent auction. Auction items will be on display at tables near the Civic Club Cafe, in the main room. Items are still coming in for this part of the bazaar — and there are already such items as clothing and footwear, jewelry, artwork, holiday items and spa packages. You can bid on silent auction items from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Have you ever been among the unfortunate shoppers who waited a little too long in past years to get your annual beef brisket sandwich with trimmings at the cafe? It is always difficult to anticipate the exact number of briskets to prepare, so be careful you don’t miss out. The cafe tables and chairs will be set up so you can take a break from your shopping to enjoy a morning snack and beverage as well as your delicious sandwich.

If you are too busy shopping to stop to eat, do not forget about all the homemade baked goods at the bake sale table in the lobby. In fact, it might be in your best interest to stop there on your way to the South Conference Room and the arts and crafts room so your favorite goodies don’t go home with other customers.

How can you become a member of this active worthwhile organization?

Area women of all ages are welcome to join and there are a several ways you can find out more about this group. You can contact this year’s club president, Jennifer, at 731-5835, or ask any club member at the bazaar for information (they’ll be the ladies wearing the red Christmas stocking name tags). Meetings are also announced in the community calendar section of this newspaper. You do not need an advance reservation to come to a meeting. The group meets on the third Thursday of the month at 1:30 p.m. , either at Community United Methodist Church on Lewis Street or in a member’s home. Check with a club member, call Jennifer, or watch the newspaper for details about the November meeting. The ladies would like to have you join them.