On the surface, it was just another luncheon.
Wearing their cheerful red and green Christmas sweaters on Wednesday, Dec. 11, the group of about 15 women sat at tables together in a semi-circle and prayed, ate, sang songs, listened to a message of faith, and chatted and laughed in a meeting room at the Holiday Inn. Just as they’ve done one Wednesday of the month for years.
But this luncheon was different from all those others in one significant way: It was, in all likelihood, their last.
After more than 60 years, the Detroit Lakes Christian Women’s Club has run out of steam. Membership in the group has steadily declined over the decades, and there is no one left who is willing or able to take the helm as chairwoman.
Chairwoman Corrine Frank, who has served in that role for the last 12 years, needs to step down for health reasons, and attempts to find a replacement have been unsuccessful.
“I tried to advertise for it last fall — I would have trained someone in last fall, but nobody stepped up,” Frank said. “That’s kind of sad. I don’t want to see the club die out.”
The club was facing the same fate 12 years ago, when the club's leader before Frank had to leave the position, also for health reasons. Frank took over then in order to save it.
“Whatever they needed, I was ready for,” Frank said. “Because I didn’t want them to close up.”
Frank has been an active member since 1978, when her former landlady invited her to a meeting. She went, “and I’ve been going ever since,” Frank said.
Over the years, she’s served as the group’s Bible study coordinator, name tag chairwoman, nursery chairwoman and more before becoming chairwoman. In that role, she’s led the club's luncheons, which entails lining up guest musicians and speakers, spreading the word about the luncheons to the community, and keeping track of any paperwork. She works closely with leaders from other nearby Christian Women's clubs, especially the Fergus Falls club, a well as with committee members and other helpful women in Detroit Lakes.
“I’ve got a real good committee, and it does take a committee,” Frank said. “Everybody has a job, so it’s not all on my shoulders. It’s a very fulfilling job, and we never lack singers or people to help. It’s very worthwhile for their time.”
Some of the regular attendees have been involved for even longer than Frank. Edna Mae Pearson, a retired teacher who was at the Wednesday luncheon, said she’s been going for 62 years. She’s served in various leadership roles with the club, and was even chairwoman for several years — years ago. Today, her age prevents her from taking on that role again.
“I feel really badly about the fact that it’s ending,” Pearson said. “It’s been such an uplifting organization for me to come to when I’m feeling down. I look forward to this group every month.”
Pearson said the club has been a source of comfort and support over the years, and that’s what’s kept her coming back again and again. She takes the spiritual messages to heart, and appreciates the fellowship and camaraderie with the other women.
“Many times, I’ve been at desperation’s door … and I’d go to a meeting and go away feeling very uplifted,” she said. This year, for example, Pearson lost one of her sons, and learned that another has cancer: “Lots of disheartening things happen in life, and this helps.”
Pearson has been around long enough to remember the days when “there used to be about 100 women that came” to the luncheons. Little by little over the decades since then, she’s watched as the attendance slowly dropped off.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times or what, but it’s just not the first priority in people’s lives anymore.”
It’s unclear exactly how old the club is; Pearson said it was already active when she got involved, so that makes it at least 62. It’s been associated with Stonecroft Ministries — an international nonprofit Christian organization that provides leadership in women’s ministry — since 1968.
In addition to the monthly luncheons, the Detroit Lakes club also features a Bible study group that meets every week (except for the week of the luncheon).
If anyone out there has an interest in rescuing the Detroit Lakes Christian Women’s Club, Frank would still be willing to help train in a new person. If no one comes forward, that's it for the club.
“I would very much like to see the club continue,” Frank said. “Nobody has stepped up yet, but you never know … you never know.”
Club leader wanted
If anyone has an interest in rescuing the Detroit Lakes Christian Women’s Club by becoming chairwoman, call Corrine Frank at 847-6274.