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One of the oldest clubs in America for women reinventing itself to mark another 100 years of philanthropy

akron woman's city club.jpg
Posted at 6:03 PM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-08 18:51:35-05

AKRON, Ohio — The Akron Woman’s City Club is a place of friendship and philanthropy, and on Wednesday, members marked its centennial celebration.

"It is so important to Akron, because you form friendships and because of that you get involved in the community," said longtime member Julie Randall.

Founded in 1923, the Akron Woman’s City Club is one of the oldest and largest clubs for women in America. It survived the Depression and wars, but perhaps its toughest battle came just recently,

Like so many establishments, COVID closures did the club no favors. Pair that with declining membership and rising costs, and the club knew it had to reinvent itself to stay open. Which it did last year under new leadership and a new partnership.

"I don’t want to just do the job, I want this place to be great and that’s what we’re working on," said Mark DiFeo, owner of Catering by Mark DiFeo.

DiFeo became the new food and business manager for the club.

He used to rent the kitchen space for his private catering business but is now doing double duty.

"It's a win-win for both," he said.

At 70, DiFeo says he too gets to reinvent himself right along with the club. He says it’s exciting and gets emotional about helping see it forward.

"All the pieces and the parts are coming together," he said. "It’s like an 8-cylinder engine; all these cylinders are firing. The good part is, I cannot do this alone. I have tremendous people around me, and my employees feel how I do. They see how I feel, and they want to be part of it.”

The core values of the Akron Woman’s City Club are civic duty, charity, culture and education.

"It helps our schools," said Sara Wilkerson, a fifth grade teacher at Helen Arnold CLC.

The club has had a long partnership with fifth graders at Helen Arnold CLS. Club members treat the young women to high tea as they're dressed in their Sunday best.

Wilkerson says it's a meaningful experience.

“I would love for more Akron Public Schools to be involved,” said Wilkerson. “For more fifth grade girls to have the experience that my Helen Arnold girls have had. For them to have the love, feel like princesses and to enjoy the experience, it just altogether is magical for them. It’s like a Disney experience in Akron, which they don’t get often.”

"We are a family of friends,” said longtime club member Charlotte Buzzelli.

And the Akron Woman’s City Club wants to grow that family, they say, by responding to the needs of their community and remaining relevant to the women of today.

They say membership is on the rise and so is their outlook.

"I think we’re on the right track," said DiFeo. "Good things are happening and I see a much brighter future."

The clubhouse at 732 West Exchange St. in Akron is stunning. The club moved into the building in 1946. It is the former residence of George Bertram Work, who was the CEO of B.F. Goodrich Rubber Co.

Buzzelli says the Akron Woman’s City Club bough the home for about $30,000 and put about $200,000 into it because it had sat idle for many years.

The home has been pristinely preserved and cared for.

The Akron Woman’s City Club is not only a private club, but also a venue space for weddings and more.

They encourage anyone interested in membership to give them a call. They say there are no requirements.

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