The Woman's Club of Delray Beach (WCDB) played a key role in the city's early growth. Now, more than 100 years later, the tradition remains strong. The club recently awarded nearly $6,000 in gifts to local agencies.

"By supporting many organizations that improve the lives of those in need, we're providing additional opportunities for success and helping to improve our community," said club co-president Mary Reis.

Among the nonprofits benefiting from the Woman Club's current contribution are:

♦ Achievement Centers for Children & Families

♦ The Caring Kitchen and C.R.O.S. Ministries

♦ Delray Citizens for Delray Police

♦ Campaign for Grade Level Reading

Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square

Delray Beach Historical Society

♦ Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County

♦ Sylvester Cancer Research

♦ Wheels From the Heart

The WCDB also granted a $1,000 scholarship to a female student at Atlantic Community High School and sent another to the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership program.

Fundraising efforts throughout the year supply its assets. Its annual goal is $10,000. The club's spring event, Real Men Bake, raised $4,500 this year. Proceeds from the lease of the clubhouse, the 505 Teen Center, also boost the budget.

Members generate more than money, they donate their time as volunteers. All are encouraged to choose their favorite niche and help out, said co-president Joann Haros. For instance, many serve at the Caring Kitchen and the Delray Beach Public Library.

The club's history of service began in 1902, when it organized as the Ladies Improvement Society. Dues were 5 cents. Members supported the suffrage movement and petitioned for the right to vote. After that became law, 81 Delray women voted in the 1920 election.

In 1924, the group federated and became the WCDB. It's best known for founding the town's public library.

"We started the library when 40 members brought in 40 books," Haros said. It was open from 2 to 5 p.m. each day.

Other standouts the club spearheaded are securing land for a town hall and the city's first cemetery and construction of a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. Before a hospital could be built, the club established a health clinic.

In the 1980s, times began to change. Many women were holding full-time jobs outside the home. Club enrollment began to wane. But nowadays, there is a resurgence of women volunteering their time and giving back to the community.

Membership in the club continues to grow, with more than 40 members active in club activities.

"We're always looking for new members who share our passion for making Delray Beach a better place for everyone," Haros said.

Visit http://www.DelrayWomansClub.com or call 561-843-6821. •