Point Loma-based Thursday Club celebrates 100 years of friendship and service
The club’s famed rummage sale is on hold, but the giving continues.
Many things have changed since the Thursday Club was formed 100 years ago. Including the Thursday Club.
The service club, founded in February 1921 by four young married women, is no longer for married women only. There also is a membership group for younger women, along with evening meetings for members who work during the day.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thursday Club meetings are not being held at its picturesque red-roofed clubhouse in Point Loma but on Zoom, with the group’s senior members — many of them in their 80s and beyond — logging on to plan for the future.
The club held a virtual centennial celebration Feb. 4 livestreamed on YouTube.
But in some ways the Thursday Club has not changed. After 100 years, it is still an organization dedicated to philanthropy and fueled by friendship.
“There is a real culture of longevity here because it’s friendship first, so nothing ever really feels like work,” said past president and current centennial chairwoman Francesca Thiem. “People always think the Thursday Club is just a building and we just walk in there and have lunches. But that is such a small part of it. We are always thinking about who can benefit from our fundraisers and how can we find more philanthropies who are working for the community at a grassroots level. That’s what we do.”
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria proclaimed Feb. 4 as Thursday Club Day, and not just because the group has longevity on its side. In its 100 years, the organization has made good on its pledge to “promote educational, cultural, social, moral and civic activities in San Diego” by raising millions of dollars for local nonprofits and community groups.
And since the launch of its famed Thursday Club rummage sale 93 years ago, the group has raised nearly $2 million for Balboa Park organizations, which traditionally receive half of the sale’s proceeds every year.
In 2020, when the sale was held the weekend before San Diego shut down in response to the pandemic, the sale raised $150,000, with half going to four park organizations: the Balboa Park Conservancy, San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Model Railroad Museum and San Diego Natural History Museum.
“In the past decade alone, the Thursday Club has helped San Diego Junior Theatre purchase improvements to the Casa del Prado Theatre, including new spotlights and wireless microphones,” Junior Theatre Executive Director James Saba said in an email. “We thank the Thursday Club for all their contributions to brighten the lives and lift the voices of San Diego’s youth.”
The club also has spread the rummage-sale wealth to nonprofits of all sizes in all corners of San Diego County. In 2020, grant recipients included larger groups such as the San Diego Rescue Mission and smaller ones like the Escondido-based Comfort Club, which provides weighted teddy bears to help people cope with loss and trauma.
“For 52 years, New Day Urban Ministries [formerly known as Presbyterian Urban Ministries] has been an integral part of the help and care to thousands of San Diegans experiencing homelessness,” said Raul Palomino, executive director of the Sherman Heights-based organization, which is a past grant recipient. “The Thursday Club has provided grants that helped over 500 homeless, low-income and elderly [people] to obtain a free ID, transportation to doctor’s appointments, plus clothes, blankets and masks.”
Even with the 2021 rummage sale canceled, the Thursday Club has continued to give. In the past year, the group has held monthly “safe” fundraisers for San Diegans in need. There have been food drives for the San Diego Food Bank and Jewish Family Service’s Safe Parking Program for unsheltered San Diegans who are living in their vehicles. Club members did a blood drive for children with cancer through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. There was a clothing drive for New Day Urban Ministries.
“I love the aspect of seeing women of all ages come together and contribute to each other and contribute to the community and take such pride and joy in doing these things,” said Thursday Club President Shelley Benoit. “And I love the idea of the women [100 years from now] at our 200th birthday watching [the recording of this year’s] livestream and saying, ‘Wow, this was happening in the middle of a pandemic, but they did it anyway.’”
— Point Loma-OB Monthly staff contributed to this report.