By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The world has witnessed many changes and technological advances since 1975, but one thing that has remained constant in Northborough is its chapter of the Junior Woman’s Club (NJWC). Founded in November of 1975, the group recently celebrated its 40th birthday and its dedication to community service has never wavered over the years.
Martha Michalewich is one of the founding members and continues to be heavily involved with the group. She joined forces with Lorraine Coye (who now lives in California) to structure the group from the beginning.
NJWC started with 15 members and one of the first town-wide projects was to survey 452 residents by telephone to gather information as to what they thought should be done with the field on Route 135 – the existing Ellsworth-McAfee Park.
Michalewich called the project their “Field of Dreams,” but with the help of the community, the park was built, followed by a fitness course, tiny tot playground and a gazebo.
Other undertakings in the early years included delivering hot lunches to the elderly, babysitting seminars, and purchasing two CPR manikins to train members and their husbands to become instructors with the goal of certifying 2,400 residents. They started “Recyclorama” before recycling was even a buzzword.
The group purchased the “Jaws of Life” for the fire department, did fingerprinting with the police department, and has supported the town library in numerous ways over the years.
“We held bottle and newspaper recycle drives which raised some money but more importantly awareness,” said Michalewich. Conservation is a key area of focus for the NJWC. The group currently holds a polystyrene/Styrofoam collection twice a year so that these materials can be recycled instead of being dumped into a landfill.
The group now has around 50 members, many of whom have been long-term members. In addition to conservation, other areas of focus include arts, education and public issues.
Today’s NJWC is known for their popular apple pie café during the town’s Applefest celebration in September and a fall craft fair in November, which has become their main fundraiser for the year. They also assist with getting children’s letters to Santa via the red mailbox at the post office during the holiday season, work with the schools to make Valentine cards for local veterans, and collect books for the Worcester, the City that Reads project, so that every student has a book for the summer. The club also brings awareness to National Child Abuse Prevention Month by selling and placing blue pinwheels in front of Town Hall in April.
Since 2000, NJWC has been holding a Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) conference each spring that is open to girls in grades 5 through 8. Michalewich explained that women volunteers with careers in these fields hold a variety of workshops to introduce the girls to opportunities in these fields. The conference, which is free to participants, will be held this year on Saturday, March 26, at Algonquin Regional High School.
According to Michalewich, the group’s involvement in any particular project starts with the idea of one of its members.
“People are anxious to help,” she said. “The project committees are a great way for us to get to know a small group of women. It’s a group of women that not only commit to service but to each other. The projects have been wonderful but the friendships and the sharing go beyond the projects. If you need help, you are guaranteed to get it whether it is help with rides, meals or child care.”
It is common to see NJWC members involved in other community efforts. Some credit the group as the motivation for them to reach out to the community in other ways.
“New people and new ideas are always welcome,” said Michalewich.
Information about NJWC and their programs can be found at www.northborojuniors.org. NJWC meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Trinity Church, 23 Main St., Northborough.