SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The charity work of a little-known women’s club goes mostly unsung, but its roots go deep into the history of women in San Diego.
Karen Reed, current president of the San Diego Woman's Club, says, “The wife of the editor of the Union paper at the time started the club.”
Her name was Mary Berry.
“She called a bunch of ladies and said we need to have a club, we need to be involved in the community,” says Karen, and that's how the San Diego Woman's Club was born in 1892.
On a cool morning in May, I met Karen and First Vice President Judy Mantle outside Ronald McDonald House Charities for a good reason.
“It's been a long association and we've enjoyed it,” Karen says about the club’s work with the charity.
It’s just one of the countless groups the club has helped. They've created gift bags for the kids, renovated the great room and kitchens, and given tens of thousands of dollars in financial donations.
“We basically try to focus on our community -- where the money's needed, what it's needed for, what can we do to help them?” says Karen.
The list is long: from the Boys and Girls Clubs to Operation Smile to Shelter to Soldier. The club recently sponsored shelter dog Haru, a German Shepherd now trained to help a service member with PTSD.
“They say we're saving two lives at a time,” says Judy, “to know just how much that is going to change that person's life in such a significant way.”
They remember everyone they've helped. Even today, Karen is overwhelmed thinking about the women displaced several years ago after a fire in one of the Big Sister League homes in Bankers Hill.
“These women, they've had a hard life,” says Karen as she wipes away tears, “It's touching a lot of lives personally.”
A few years ago they sold their clubhouse on Third Avenue in Bankers Hill. That money now helps generate more money to give. The rest comes from fundraisers.
“We've had dinners and bingo and bunco and tea parties and all sorts of interesting things," says Karen.
The club donated more than $300,000 in the last year alone. The members often point out who needs help, but the number of members isn't what it once was, partly because not many San Diegans know about it.
“It's kind of one of the things that I found out right away is, wow, this is the best kept secret here in San Diego,” says Judy.
During their peak years, they had 890 members. Then, after World War II, more women started working. Now they have about 40 members.
“The secret sauce really is in its membership,” says Judy, “how do we become relevant to a lot of younger population that really I think want to do things and is not quite sure where to plug in.”
So as the San Diego Woman’s Club celebrates its 130th birthday this year -- 130 years of history and service -- the gift they really want is to expand their sisterhood.
“That's really what an organization like this is about. It's really staying connected with each other but also with the community,” says Judy.
In case you’re wondering, it is "Woman's" club, not “Women's” club.
When asked why, Karen jokes, "That is a question for the ages." You can get more information on membership and what they do here: https://sandiegowomansclub.org/.