The Junior Woman’s Club of Milford marked its 50th year with an Anniversary Gala. Members celebrated a half century of the Club’s giving back to the local community and honored its founder.

Held at Grassy Hill Country Club in Orange, dinner, cocktails and DJ entertainment were provided along with a raffle and $20 wine pull. Sharing in the memorable evening was the founder of the Milford chapter, Sharon Roche.

“I’m so happy to be here and that this continues,” Roche said. “It was something that was important to me and to come back 50 years later is very special. I’m from Milford and after we got married and bought a house here I was the youngest person in the neighborhood. I called my sister who lived in West Haven and she suggested I join Junior Woman’s Club and go with her. I said ok but they wouldn’t take me because I didn’t live in West Haven - so I said well, I’ll start one! I put an ad in the paper (Milford Citizen) and called some friends from high school and they came and here we are.”

The Connecticut Junior Women, Inc. (CJW) is a volunteer organization of women with diverse talents who collectively donate their time, financial, and moral support for the betterment of their local, state, national and global communities while providing opportunities for personal growth and leadership. Member clubs (60 clubs and 2,000 members) are chartered throughout the state under the umbrella of CJW.

The CJW originated in 1938. There were 13 clubs total in Connecticut, when 67 members representing 8 clubs met in Waterbury on Dec. 1, 1938. The following clubs were represented: Waterbury 39, Suffield 4, West End 4, Naugatuck 1, Bristol 9, New Haven 4, West Haven 3, and Somers 4. Additional set clubs were: Westport, New Britain, Torrington, Hartford, and Southport. The first fall conference was held at the Blue Plate Tea Room in Hartford, the club had $19.95 in its treasury.

By the spring conference held in 1940 (Somers) the treasury reported a balance of $46 and the first executive board met in 1941. The 50-year-old Junior Woman’s Club of Milford (JWCM) is a member of the CJW, and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded on the principals of promoting education, public health, philanthropy and service to the Milford community

“I think we might have had 10 people at the first meeting,” said Roche. “The first year was pretty simple, we started a story hour at the library (preschool ages), we planted a tree behind City Hall for Arbor Day, we dressed the kids up and took them to convalescent homes during Halloween. Throughout the following years while I was president we really focused on whatever was going on in Milford including the bicentennial.”

Co-presidents Rebecca Flynn and Erin Morabito said, “The organization has been around for 50 years which is a huge deal, we are a nonprofit group gathering to give back to the Milford community. “We have recently been put in charge of the Respect Campaign which is a school wide campaign, peer nominated. We donate financial contributions to a few nonprofits like the United Way, the Get in Touch Foundation and Beth-El Center.”

“This event specifically is to honor our 50’th anniversary and our first President Sharon Roche who started it with a simple newspaper clipping asking fellow women to come to her house,” said Kate Pikul. She was a stay at home mom and also to honor past and future members. We currently have 22 members in the Milford Club. The goal is always the same - to raise money for Milford.”

“We have about 76 members coming tonight, past and present. It’s nice to get everybody in one room and see how far the club has come because it means so much to us,” said Morabito.

The JWCM annual activities include a Citywide Spelling Bee, Living Treasures Awards, Literacy Center Awards, Adopt-A-Spot, Scholarships for high school seniors and more. Annual fundraisers include Touch-A-Truck, Breakfast with Santa (Dec 2), Paint Nights, and Clothing Drives.

“A lot of people don’t realize we buried a time capsule to the right side of the old City Hall, we had a patriotic fife and drum band come and we put in things that meant something to women of our time,” added Roche. The community is encouraged to join by meeting the 1’st Thursday of the month at the Bridge House Restaurant at 7pm. “It’s an open meeting, come check us out.” Visit www.milfordjuniors.org for more info.