A pertinent number for the Glenshaw Century Club is 76, the years that have passed since its founding as a Shaler-based philanthropic group.
An impressive sum is $750,000, the total amount the club has awarded in scholarships since the 1940s.
Perhaps the most intriguing figure is 100, as in “century.” For founders Gertrude Dietrich and Kay Gittings, did that represent a membership goal? Was 1946 the centennial of something more memorable than the start of the Mexican-American War?
Did it just sound kind of catchy?
“Nobody knows where the name came from,” Susan Ball, who is on the club’s board and executive committee, said. “We just don’t know.”
What members do know is the Glenshaw Century Club motto, “Serving our community.” And they take it to heart.
Last year, the organization added to its total by awarding $29,000 worth of scholarships to Shaler Area High School seniors as one of many efforts toward helping people in the North Hills and beyond.
For example, the club’s Caring Bears craft project has resulted in the donation of more than 1,600 stuffed animals to hospitals, emergency rooms, ambulance services, police stations and the Highmark Caring Place in downtown Pittsburgh. The intent is to help provide comfort to children who are subjected to adverse situations.
“If they were taken out of a domestic violence situation, fire, accident, anything like that, the police and ambulances carried the little bears,” Ball said.
During the covid-19 pandemic, club members expanded the Caring Bears reach to young Shaler Area students, to help them adjust to uncertain circumstances.
“Now, all of a sudden, people they don’t know have masks on. The kids they do know have masks on,” Ball said. “So every kindergartner got a bear.”
The list of further Glenshaw Century Club beneficiaries is extensive, including support for organization such as food pantries, libraries, churches, public safety agencies and North Hills Community Outreach, which addresses the needs of people in crisis, hardship and poverty.
Such largesse is keeping with the tradition started by Dietrich and Gittings as a sense of normalcy returned following World War II.
“The women needed a place to be. There were so many exclusions from other clubs,” Erin Miller said, with men-only organizations serving as an example. “As those groups kind of all paired off, the couple of women who started the Century Club were finding a place to create their own, to allow other women to come in and find their own space, and donate their time and energy.”
Miller joined the club fairly recently, as a new resident of Shaler who was seeking an avenue for community involvement. She met some of the members at local events and was impressed by their altruistic pursuits.
So she took them up on their offer to attend a club meeting.
“Everyone was very welcoming and made sure I had a spot at the table,” she said. “Everyone had a piece of food for me in hand and was willing to get to know who I am, and really figure out what my passions are so I can apply them to the club, which I thought was great.”
Miller and the other club members are looking forward to a couple of special events.
A craft fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 23 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 1719 Mount Royal Blvd., Shaler. More than 70 vendors are expected to be in attendance.
Also, the club’s Masquerade in Style Luncheon and Fashion Show, a major fundraiser, is on May 21 at Wildwood Golf Club in Hampton.
The Glenshaw Century Club’s regular meetings are at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month, January through May and September through November, in the parlor of Glenshaw Presbyterian Church, 300 Glenn Ave., Shaler. Annual dues are $25.
For more information, visit glenshawcenturyclub.bravehost.com.
Harry Funk is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Harry at [email protected]