Woman's Club closes door on ‘07 Home Tour

By Reggie Ellis

After more than 20 years of taking people on a tour of some of Exeter's most historic and exquisite homes, the Exeter Woman's Club has been forced to close the door on its annual Home Tour.

For the second time in the last six years, there are not enough homeowners who are willing to allow people to tour their homes, said event Chairperson Elaine Howell.

&#8220I guess its part of a change in our society,” Howell said. &#8220People don't feel comfortable allowing strangers to walk through their homes. And as far as decorating tips go, there are entire television shows dedicated to that now.”

The Home Tour was started in 1985 by then club president Loretta Miller. Each year, the one-day tour featured four to six homes in Exeter that were either luxurious, historic or a shining example of interior design. Generally, a highlight of the tour was at least one house or mansionette in the gated community of Badger Hill Estates just east of town. The tour also featured a tea, where ticket holders could meet and discuss the homes or just sit and chat.

Current President Bonnie Wells said the Home Tour is the club's largest fund-raiser of the year and without it the club will have to work harder on smaller fund-raisers. Proceeds from most of the club's events, including a fashion show held last Saturday, benefit two $500 scholarships Exeter students, who are eligible to apply for an additional $250 each semester they are in school.

&#8220Almost all of our members are in their 70s and up,” Wells said. &#8220Many of them can't help with some of the fund-raisers, which leaves more work for a few.”

Aging membership and the decreasing number of new members is something that every service club is dealing with, but Wells said it seems especially hard for women's organizations.

&#8220Most in my generation didn't work at all while their kids were home. They went back to work when the kids were in school,” Wells said. &#8220But women now work full-time, taxi kids to band practices and soccer games and still find time to clean the house. I think they are stretched too thin.”

Age is also catching up with the Clubhouse as well. Built in 1925, Wells said the building's roof was repaired last year but that major upgrades to the plumbing and renovations are needed and a sprinkler system is necessary to keep up the lawn.

&#8220We are talking big bucks for an upgrade, and that's something the club doesn't have,” Wells said. &#8220We don't have a big cushion when large repairs are needed. If something major happened, it might force us to sell the building.”

The Woman's Club is one of the most historic clubs in Exeter, founded by Mrs. Herman Stephens in 1903, eight years before Exeter incorporated as a city. It has given birth to several of Exeter's other historic organization and institutions including the first library, the Pink Ladies and the Garden Club. The clubhouse has served as home for many events including Exeter High School's Sober Grad Night, art exhibits, Cub and Boy Scout pack meetings, and is still used for the Exeter Community Blood Drives.

The Exeter Woman's Club meets at 11:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Clubhouse, 201 N. Kaweah Ave. in Exeter. An annual membership is $30. To donate to the club, make out checks to Exeter Woman's Club, P.O. Box 352, Exeter, CA 93221 attention Wilma Green, Treasurer.

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