Most locals know that Delaware was the first state in the US, and Lewes was the first town in this first state of the Union. But how many of you know about the First Town Club? It could be described as a social club with a heart of gold.
Four women started the club in 1991 to welcome newcomers to the greater Lewes area and provide friendship, support, and assistance through a variety of activities and informative monthly meetings. Ten women attended the first meeting in July 1991. Now, club membership fluctuates between 65 and 100 women in the Rehoboth, Lewes, Milton and Ocean View communities. Although the emphasis is on acquainting newcomers to the area, meetings are open to all women and are held at the Lewes Library at 7pm the third Tuesday of the month in September, October, November, January, March, and April. The group meets for lunch at various venues in December, February and May. (No meetings are held in June, July, and August.)
According to member Dottie Papp, speakers from all walks of life have addressed meetings. “I have been so impressed with the speakers at the monthly meetings,” said Milton resident April Wiaczek. “These include the volunteer coordinator for the Lewes Historical Farmers’ Market who provided insight into the market history and activities to support local farmers and food pantries; a former Director General of the United States Foreign Service and U.S. Ambassador to Africa who discussed her career in foreign affairs; and one of the founding members of The Chantels, a singing, recording and performing rhythm and blues group”.
Anyone is welcome even if a first attendance is at the end of the club’s regular schedule – a luncheon at the 1776 Steak House in Midway on May 16.
“In addition to monthly gatherings, club members enjoy getting together for bridge, canasta or a creative hands needlework groups that meet monthly,” says member Dottie Papp. She shares that club trips are very popular. The club usually offers two trips annually. They range from visiting local places of interest in Delaware and Maryland either by car-pooling or bussing to places like Winterthur, Nemours, water taxi cruises, Cape May Lewes Ferry and many others organized throughout the past 30+ years.
Wiaczek joined the club so she could play Mahjongg on a regular basis. She had learned the basics at an OSHER Lifelong Learning Center.
“Once I completed the classes I wanted to continue playing,” she said. “My instructor Katherine Henn suggested joining the First Town Club. The weekly Mahjongg gathering is both an opportunity to use what I learned in class along with meeting a fine group of players”.
But there is more to First Town Club. Members give back to many organizations through annual dues ($20), a 50/50 raffle and an occasional Silent Auction. The club started offering a $400 scholarship to a graduating female senior at Cape Henlopen High School who would be pursuing further education. The scholarship is now $1,000. The First Town Club also assists the Cape Henlopen Food Basket and Harbor Healthcare of Lewes, extending to help other groups as the budget allows.
“We have such a wealth of knowledge and experience that are shared when gathering together,” says Wiaczek. “It is rewarding to be part of a group that supports each other and the community through activities such as Cape Henlopen Food Basket donations and the annual college scholarship”.
That sentiment is reminiscent of the 60’s era Girl Scout slogan, “Make New Friends and Keep the Old, one is Silver and the Other is Gold”.
Contacts: Maddy Coss, at 302-644-9182 – May Lunch; Dottie Papp at 302-228-1328 or email@example.com for general information. The club does not have a website.
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.