NGA Southampton Branch Celebrates 80 Years!

In 1938, Southampton was a small town surrounded by farms. The Needlework Guild of America – known now as NGA~Needlework Guild of America – was active in Ivyland. (It was the big town in the area.) Southampton got involved when Mrs. Marguerite Clemens and her husband moved to town. She had been active with her mother in the Jarrettown Branch (club). When Mrs. Frank Emory moved to town, Mrs. Clemens convinced her and several local women from the Ivyland group to start the effort of providing new clothes for those in need in our town. Thus, the Southampton, PA Branch of NGA was formed. Mrs. J. E. Chamberlain, Mrs. Thomas Clemens, Mrs. Charles Ermentrout, Mrs. A. W. Hoelscher, Miss Winifred James, Miss Mary Leedom, Mrs. C. Wilson Roberts, Mrs. Charles Sayre, Mrs. Warren Sinkler, and Mrs. John Terry were among the leadership of the new branch.

Records from an October 1938 meeting held on the second floor of the old firehouse (at the corner of Second Street Pike and Knowles Avenue – now a pretzel shop) show that 1000 new garments and $28.00 were received that year. Mrs. Sophy Uthoff and Miss Clara Finney (Mrs. Donald Dungan) entertained the group with musical selections. Although this was a charitable organization, readings, musical selections, and dramatic presentations were part of official meetings as was the custom for clubs at that time.

The branch celebrated 50 years of caring with a float in the 1988 Southampton 4th of July Parade and an open house at the North and Southampton Reformed Church (NSRC). At that time, they announced providing 25,000 new clothes, linens, and toiletries that helped people through 39 community agencies. Leadership at that time included Mrs. William Barcalow, Mrs. Gustav Bechtold, Mrs. Horace Crane, Mrs. Francis Dolton, Mrs. Donald Dungan, Mrs. Grace Dungan, Mrs. John Fesmire, Mrs. Joel Klingman, Mrs. George Sinkler, and Mrs. John Trembath, as well as ten of the original founders. [We are proud to have many family members of these women active today.]

In 2008, our branch celebrated 70 years of service with an ice cream social that featured yummy ice cream, cookie and cake treats; facts about our activities past and present; and fun group participation. This event was held at NSRC and attended by over 80 members of all ages.

The branch was and is a broad-based, all-volunteer, community effort. Over the years, the Girl Scouts; Boy Scouts; NSRC youth group, circles, and congregation; the Bykota and the Willing Workers classes of Davisville Church; the Lois Circle and Bible School of the Good Shepard Lutheran Church; The Church of the Redemption; Southampton Estates’ residents; card clubs; sewing groups; school kids; and the Southampton Women’s Club joined individuals, neighborhoods and merchants (Knauers and Wards in the earlier days – Kmart, Walmart, and Target more recently) collaborating to collect, make, buy, or donate new items for distribution through area homes, hospitals and institutions. Men and women, and boys and girls work together to help those less fortunate.

Today, the Southampton Branch of NGA is proud to report giving over 1,200,000 gifts to date. [That’s remarkable for a small-town, totally-volunteer group!] This past year alone, 40,712 new clothes, linens, and toiletries were given to people in need through 7 local training and prevention centers, rehab facilities, shelters, children and youth departments, veterans’, and social service programs.

Since 1974, the branch has held annual public auctions of donated “treasures” and has raised over $290,000 which was used to purchase much-needed items. Since 1997, the branch has held two auctions annually to continue to raise awareness and funds to purchase gifts. These auctions are held in November and March at the NSRC auditorium and about 75 volunteers work together to staff the event.

The branch is currently led by the following men and women volunteers: Carmen Amato, Bev Barcalow, Marilyn Boyer, Lynn Castle, Brenda Cole, Fenton Dungan, Karen Fesmire, Karie Freedman, Jackie Kline, June Martin, Mertz Trembath, Diana Weiss, and Doris Woodrow. (Do you recognize some of these last names?)