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Civic Club disbands after 102 years

After 102 years, countless funds raised for Ruby M. Sisson Library and supporting the libraries in a variety of ways, the Pagosa Springs Woman’s Civic Club has disbanded.

It was a hard decision, but it had become too hard to run the organization. The club has handed the baton and responsibility for the Holiday Bazaar to the Mountain View Homemakers Club.

Changing lifestyles and economic circumstances in America changed the dynamic of the club and ultimately changed the dynamics to such an extent that it made more sense to disband this summer than to continue.

“We had been talking about disbanding for some time, but were holding off until we found someone to take over the bazaar,” Dahrl Henley said. Henley had been a member of the Women’s Civic Club since she moved to Pagosa Springs 18 years ago.

The Civic Club was founded in 1910 to take over the operation of Pagosa Springs’ fledgling library, with 202 books. The library itself traced its roots to 1896, with the donation of 48 books by a wealthy Methodist from New York. At the beginning, the library was operated from the basement of the Methodist Church. The Civic Club operated the library, moving it from the basement to a log cabin and then to a town hall located next to the San Juan River. Then, in 1966, local government took over operations. The Civic Club, though, continued to give support, conducting fund-raisers, with members working in volunteer positions at the library.

“We had a very successful history,” Henley said of the Civic Club. When the library moved to its current location on 8th Street, the Civic Club, along with the Friends of the Library, helped it open debt-free. Since the opening, the Civic Club has helped in raising money for computers and furnishings, and also led a successful de-Brucing campaign, which has allowed the library to use more of its funds.

“That was huge. It was a lot of work, but we were successful,” Henley said. She headed the de-Brucing campaign committee.

In her time as a member, Darhl said the makeup of the group has changed.

Younger women are raising families or working. Possibly, they are getting involved with other community organizations. Also, she said, when the financial crunch came, many woman who might have been living here part-time, had to move away from the area.

“We tried very hard not to disband,” Henley said, but ultimately, by the end, disbanding seemed to be the only choice. The club’s bylaws state that there must be a certain number of officers, and there just weren’t enough people to fill all the seats. People were taking two seats on the board, doing double duty. It was wearing, Henley said, and after it stayed this way for such a time, disbanding was the only option. The few active members were getting older and their responsibilities were increasing. Also, the cost of their major fund-raiser, the Holiday Bazaar, was increasing.

When the Mountain View Homemakers agreed to take over the Holiday Bazaar, the Civic Club members knew it was time to disband; going on was no longer practical.

At the end, this summer, the active membership was 15.

When it disbanded, the Civic Club had $18,000 left in its bank account. Though, at first, members thought of giving all the money to the library, the club instead voted to split the money 50/50, half going to the Historical Society Museum and the other half to the Ruby M. Sisson Library.

Henley would like to extend thanks and appreciation to former librarian Lenore Bright who, she said, is responsible for moving the library from a basement with a few books to its status as a real, functioning library.

“For a long time, she was the heart and soul of the library,” Henley said.

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