April is National Volunteer Month. Throughout the month we are featuring articles about service organizations in Osceola County.
Woman’s Club of St. Cloud
The Woman’s Club of St. Cloud traces its beginnings to a small group of women who met in a tent on March 14, 1910, soon after the city of St. Cloud, Florida, was formed. Known as the Ladies Improvement Club, the women became involved in civic improvements, the first being sidewalks and paved streets and the need for a library. Within a few months, the train depot contained a table with reading material available to the public and a traveling library had been established.
The “Free Reading Room” was established in 1911. The small building on Pennsylvania Avenue measured 6 feet x 12 feet with shelves installed for the books. Rapidly outgrowing the small building, the library collection made several moves until it became necessary for a permanent home. Money was raised from ice cream sales on Saturday afternoons, lectures, musical and opera performances, sales of citrus and even the sales of lots donated by citizens. In 1915, lots on Massachusetts Avenue were purchased for the future library.
Plans to build a library building were put on hold until 1922. When war broke out in Europe the women became involved in Near East Relief, cemetery beautification and Red Cross work. Finally, in 1922, enough money had been raised to begin plans to build a library building. Dedicated on February 17, 1923, the Veterans Memorial Library contained one large room, divided by folding doors, a small kitchen and lavatories.
In 1941, the name of the organization changed to Woman’s Club of St. Cloud. The maintenance and operation of the library was continued by the group until 1968 when it became part of the Osceola County Library system. When the City of St. Cloud purchased the building in 2001, the Woman’s Club aided with plans to use it for housing and exhibiting historic records and artifacts of the Woman’s Club, veterans and civic organizations and items donated to the Woman’s Club for preservation.
The Woman’s Club of St. Cloud currently maintains the St. Cloud Heritage Museum collection in the historic library building. Over the years they have held clean-up campaigns, implemented parks and beautification projects, and aided in the purchase of high school band uniforms. The club has given grants to local nonprofit organizations and St. Cloud elementary schools for the purchase of books and visual aids. Their mission is to “empower women to improve their community, support public education and provide annual scholarship assistance for St. Cloud graduates.”
Written by Anza Bast
Sources: Photo from Osceola County Historical Society archives; St. Cloud Heritage Museum, www.stcloudheritagemuseum.com.