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AV Unity Club: 100 Years of Service

This is the first in a series of articles about our local Unity Club in celebration of 100 continuous years of community service. The AV Unity Club was originally founded on December 8th, 1923.

I spoke with Beverly Dutra who has an overview of activities planned for this special centennial year. One hundred cans have been collected for donation to the food bank one for each year. See photo: Janet Lombard stands in the back while seated from left to right are Robyn Harper, Alice Bonner, Beverly Dutra and Benna Kolinsky.

A new club banner has been created by ace seamstress Ellen Fontaine for use throughout this year’s commemorative celebrations. Two redwood benches are being built with wood donated by Marvin Dutra for our community park- one by Rick Bonner and the other by Wally Hopkins to commemorate Sue Hopkins efforts to revitalize the Wildflower Show. There is the possibility of a history window at the AV County Fair highlighting the Unity Club’s accomplishments of which there have been many.

In talking about accomplishments topping the list in importance is the role the Unity Club played over many years in saving Hendy Woods for the enjoyment and education of generations to come. Although this was only one project the club has undertaken over the years their approach (using a combination of persistence and skill) is typical. One historian stated, “They never let the idea (for a park) die- kept hammering away at different officials and agencies etc. through the years”. ”

In snooping around online I found an article written by Kathy Bailey in the AVA on December 21, 2011 titled “It was (Mostly) Those Women.” If you remember around that time there was a threat of Hendy Woods being shut down by the State for lack of funds. The community rallied and one side effect was a digging into the historical roots of the park. Kathy was a big advocate for Hendy Woods. In her research she found that Hendy had only become a park about 10 years before her arrival in the valley - a big surprise. She credits Mary Darling for going back over old club minutes to find a paper trail of steps the Unity Club took to save Hendy Woods - a long and winding road. 

In 1938 Mr. Al Strowbridge of the SF Commonwealth Club addressed the club on the subject of the saving the redwood forest. A committee was formed including Miss Blanche Brown, Dr. Dorothy Jordt and Mrs. Patterson to support a call for protection. In 1941 the Unity Club urged that Hendy be included in the proposed State Park plans. In 1948 the tract was sold to Masonite. In 1950 Lenore Robert (cousin of Christine Clark) sent a letter to the governor asking for protection. In 1954 the Mendocino Planning Commission asked Masonite to donate the land for a park. In 1955 the state appropriated the money to buy the property in 1958 for $350,000. It was five years until the park opened and was dedicated in 1963. 

Many, many other individuals, organizations and local families worked to preserve Hendy Woods along with the Unity Club but they are too numerous to mention. You can find more information at All the information I am quoting came from the article Kathy Bailey wrote along with minutes Mary Darling and Robin Lindsey collected and summarized that Kathy drew from to write her article. 

This was no flash in the pan commitment on anyone’s part. From the first discussion at a Unity Club meeting in the 1920’s to the park’s dedication in 1963 only the most tenacious and dedicated advocates would have hung in there to save the trees. And that’s who the Unity Club is and that’s how the Unity Club rolls to this day.

In future articles many of the other projects the club has undertaken will be discussed. I like this quote from an early summary of Unity Club activities written by Alpha Adams in 1936: “Reading back through these (meeting) minutes has been a pleasure and an inspiration to me. Associating with these splendid women (many of them gone now) on projects they held to be worthy, doing this bit toward making the world a happier and better place in which to live, seems to prove to me the truth of our club motto: ‘In unity there is strength’.”

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