Athenaeum Club has helped make Park City what it is today |

Athenaeum Club has helped make Park City what it is today

Amy Firestone, right, picks out a stuffed animal to add to an Easter basket during an Easter basket-making activity at the Christian Center of Park City Thursday afternoon, April 11, 2019.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

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Park City’s Athenaeum Club has been instrumental in making Park City what it is today.

The nonprofit, which was organized by a group of miners’ wives in 1897, founded the Park City Library, and has hosted the Park City High School Girl Graduate Tea for the past 79 years.

“The Tea,” as it has been known all through the years, has grown in attendance and programming, said club member Marilyn Boschetto.

“We now attract about 100 people, and we have recently added an inspirational speaker,” Boschetto said.

Past speakers have included Holly Flanders, gold medal Olympic winner in downhill ski racing, and Jennifer Mulholland of Plenty Consulting.

“It’s a huge event for us, and the girls love it,” said club historian Lynette McAferty. “They dress up in their formals and their mothers come out. It’s a big deal.”

The club is operated under the umbrella of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, an international organization has a goal of “community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service,” according to its mission statement.

In following that mission, the Park City Athenaeum Club focuses on six issues: conservation, public issues, education, home life, arts and international outreach.

“The miners’ wives that organized our club wanted to get together to educate themselves and do things in the community,” McAferty said. “We host, work on or help with programs that cover these subjects each year.”

One major project was to establish the Park City Library in 1934.

“They started the library at the old Congregational Church on the upper part of Park Avenue, before moving it into one of the places that used to be a saloon,” McAferty said. “The club ran the library for a number of years.”

During those years, the Athenaeum Club also decided Park City needed a museum.

“They got together with the city council in 1955 and bought another building to house the museum and started collecting artifacts,” McAferty said. “They knew a bunch of old-timers, and they didn’t want those items to go by the wayside.”

The club never got the museum up and running, but in 1984, when the Park City Museum was established, the club was part of the community that got it going, she said.

Other community projects the Athenaeum Club helped with include installing the first drinking fountain in Park City High School in 1911 and building the Park City playground with the Kiwanis Club in 1915.

Today, in addition to the Girl’s Tea, the club works on a reading program called Bookin’ on Home, which takes place April 19 and 26 at McPolin, Parley’s Park and Jeremy Ranch elementary schools.

“We started the program by reading to the first graders at McPolin, and buying books for them during the annual Scholastic Book Sale,” McAferty said. “We would take these books and go to the school and all the first graders will choose which books they want to read.”

As the program grew, the club would divide the students into small groups determined by the book they wanted to read, she said.

Each year the club sponsors two to three Park City High School sophomores to attend the multi-day Hugh O’Brian Leadership Seminar that helps these students develop their leadership potential based on personal, group and societal perspectives.

“Once the conference is over, the students report back to us, and it’s marvelous to hear what they have learned,” McAferty said.

The Athenaeum Club is also a major supporter of Peace House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

“We help them with any needs they have,” McAferty said.

This past December, the club bought equipment for the Peace House’s new community campus, which will feature transitional housing and expanded support services for those who are escaping abusive situations.

“We also provide meals for Peace House clients twice, sometimes three times a month,” McAferty said.

The club also works with the Hope Alliance, a nonprofit that helps bring eye care to underserved areas in the U.S. and abroad, and it joined the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Wasatch Back-Park City two years ago.

Last week, the club helped the Christian Center of Park City fill Easter baskets for the underprivileged in the community, Boschetto said.

“We move around a lot,” she said. “We fill in where we need to.”

The club also offers services outside of Park City.

“Members gathered approximately 60 beautiful gowns to support the military women at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden,” McAferty said. “The gowns will be going their Belle of the Ball program and will be loaned to any woman affiliated with Hill Air Force Base who needs one for a special occasion.”

There are currently 28 paying members of the Park City Athenaeum Club, and memberships dues are the club’s major source of income, Boschetto said.

Over the years, the club has received support from grants issued by Park City and Sunrise Rotary Clubs, she said.

Two years ago it received a Bessie Minor Swift Education Grant,, she said. “However, we would like to find another way to branch out and bring more funds in to expand our programs,” Boschetto said. “We know there are many women in the community who would like to participate in what we do.”

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