Women’s Groups in Bedford
In honor of Women's History Month, the Town of Bedford has chosen to highlight two outstanding women's groups within the town that have been serving the community for a century.
The Women's Civic Club of Katonah
It's like a sisterhood. We look out for each other. - Ursula Martin, Manager of the Katonah Thrift Shop and member of the Women's Civic Club of Katonah
Founded in 1918 as a continuation of the Katonah Suffrage Club, The Women's Civic Club of Katonah has been a force fighting for the rights of women for over a century. Today, with well-over 100 members ranging in age from 40 to 90 years old, the club functions as a social group and a charity organization. The unique sense of camaraderie and "sisterhood," as member Ursula Martin phrases it, that exists within the club is a staple of the group, and it attracts members who live as far away as Putnam County and Connecticut.
Club member Bobbi Stanton recalls a conversation with one member of the club who admitted that the club "saved her life" after she moved from the Bronx following the death of her husband. Alone in a new community, the member was able to have a place to go and form friendships.
Located in the basement of the beautiful historic Memorial House in Katonah, New York, the Katonah Thrift Store has served as a primary fundraising source for the group since 1945. Currently, the thrift store is managed by Joan Kachmarik, Ursula Martin and Bobbi Stanton and is fully staffed by members of the Civic Club. From one-of-a-kind vintage fur coats to porcelain dining pieces, a treasure trove of uniquely curated pieces attracts customers of all ages from all over the map, even as far as New York City.
Bridget Kayser, a resident of Patterson New York and a loyal customer of the shop for years, explains why she makes the trip to the shop weekly, stating that the club is "clean and friendly, with new stuff constantly coming in."
The Women's Civic Club of Katonah - and by extension, the thrift shop's - primary goal is to give back to the community. During the height of the COVID Pandemic, the thrift shop, despite being closed, frequently donated large quantities of yarn and stationary materials to the women at the Bedford Hills and Taconic Correctional Facilities, giving the women the invaluable opportunity to write to their loved ones when visitations were restricted. All of the funds raised from sales at the Thrift Shop, after expenses are paid, go to a number of community organizations, including the Katonah Library, the Community Center, Hope's Door and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as well as into academic scholarships, allowing local high schoolers to continue their education.
Recently clearing out their Winter stock and donating all clothing and items that did not sell to local veteran organizations and charity groups, the shop has newly introduced its Spring collection. The Katonah Thrift store is open for shopping from 10 am to 2 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; purchases can be made with cash or check only. During their business hours, the shop also accepts and appreciates free donations of gently used clothing and home décor.
Bedford Hills Woman's Club
I treasure what we have here. You don't realize how much this community means to you. - Joanne Rosamond, President of the Bedford Hills Woman's Club
An organization dedicated to community service and fellowship, the Bedford Hills Woman's Club has been a staple of the Bedford Hills community since its organization in 1926.
For the women involved, ranging in age from women in their mid-thirties to women in their mid-nineties, the club serves a dual purpose, both allowing them a social outlet and a way to give back to the community. To quote Club President Joanne Rosamond, who joined the group through a friend she met at the Bedford Hills Free Library, "I [now] have a friend in every woman" within the club.
A three-generation resident of the Town of Bedford and the First Vice President of the club Karen Hanratty reflects this sentiment, stating "When one of us hurts, everybody hurts. When one of us has a need, that need is filled." It is this close-knit, friendly and supportive atmosphere characteristic of the Bedford Hills Woman's Club that draws in members from all over the map: from Chappaqua to Putnam Valley. Members of the club pride themselves upon the fact everyone is welcome.
What is special about the club is the unique overlap of friendship and charity that exists within the group. "We enjoy what we do, and I think that makes the difference," says Joanne. A perfect example of this integration is the club's participation in Project Linus, a charitable organization that donates hand-knit security blankets to seriously ill or abandoned children and young adults. Club members participate in knitting circles where the women can chat with each other, bond over snacks, and teach newcomers how to knit, whether that newcomer is 35 years old or 90 years old! All of this is done in order to create meaningful and, most importantly, cuddly blankets for the children.
The Bedford Hills Woman's Club is perhaps most well known for its Scholarship Luncheon held in October. People travel from all over Westchester County for the opportunity to win some of the amazing gifts that local businesses and merchants generously donate to the woman's club. Proceeds from the event go to scholarships for deserving seniors from Fox Lane High School going to college or nursing school. The women also donate supplies and funds to various local organizations including, but not limited to the Bedford Women's correctional facility, the Bedford Hills Free Library, and the Westchester Exceptional Children's School.