In 1950, the Whittier community had no service, guidance, or assistance organizations.When this fact came to the attention of Mrs. John Cummings and Mrs. Russell Kimble, they believed there was a need for a philanthropic women’s group and began to interest their friends in such an organization. Initially, in May of 1952, eight women met to explore a future club. The following month an additional eight friends joined them, and they created an organization which was called the Whittier League. Knowing the record of National Assistance League for high standards of community service, the Whittier women discussed the needs of the area with officers of the national organization and decided to qualify as a chapter. In order to become a probationary chapter, the membership was increased to twenty-five, and in September of 1953, the twenty-five women became a part of the national organization.
Under the leadership of Mrs. James A. Tuma, the women of this new group researched and participated in many activities to determine how best to direct their efforts as each chapter of Assistance League must be identified with local philanthropies as a prerequisite to membership.
In December of 1953, the chapter was incorporated and became the eighteenth chapter of Assistance League.The charter ceremony was conducted in the home of Mrs. Albert Martin in February 1954, and was described as “a simple one, and the National President, Mrs. Harold Ramser, has a manner of exquisite simplicity.”
These early volunteers participated in Child Day Care at Broadway Park, the establishment of the Girls’ Club at Palm Park Youth Center, recreation programs at Los Nietos and Dexter schools, assisted the Whittier Community Chest fund, and helped with the founding of the Family Service Association and the Visiting Nurse Association.
The outcome of this quest was the formation of the Homemaker Service, a program giving temporary emergency in-home care by trained homemakers. The service continued into 1992. Other philanthropies added through the years include the Bookmobile Service providing reading material, and more recently audio books, to shut-ins. The Whittier chapter supports needed Whittier Library activities.
Other endeavors have included sponsorships of the Red Cross Bloodmobile, serving as hostesses for coffee hours for the East Whittier School District, and sponsoring a Speaker Series fundraiser. Edna Stearns Dayton presented a Book Review Series held at the Clock Country Club, the Bailey Recreation Center, and the Greenleaf Temple. Luncheons prior to the reviews were an additional fundraiser. A small gift shop, a Treasure and Trinket Sale, a Christmas tree brunch, and Chez Ligue have been staged.
Within a few years of incorporation in 1953, a need was determined for a permanent headquarters.The Automobile Club building on Greenleaf Avenue was purchased in 1958. This was made possible with a $10,000 gift from Mr. and Mrs. John Reilly, plus other gifts from members and friends of Assistance League of Whittier. Associate members gave appreciated support. The building was bought for $28,800. Dale Long, Inc. was chosen for the remodel project, and in the fall of 1959 the league had a new home.
A major addition to the property, the building in the rear, was built in 1964. Once again, with the aid of friends and a low interest loan of $15,000 from Associate Mrs. Leona Myer, the property was enhanced. This second project cost $33,850. That building now houses the thrift shops, business offices, and a large workroom. A valuable purchase of adjacent real estate enabled the Whittier chapter to acquire a lot for parking. This was an expenditure of $19,500 from savings. Proudly in 1974 the mortgage was burned.
An unexpected honor came to the Whittier chapter in March of 1972. Patricia Ryan Nixon, wife of President Richard Nixon, became an honorary member. A friend of many members, she wrote, “I shall be pleased to have my name listed in this honorary manner if, in this limited way, I may express my admiration for the goals and accomplishments of your splendid organization. Many members created beautiful handknit dresses for Mrs. Nixon as she embarked on the campaign trail.
Countless dedicated women have contributed thousands of volunteer hours over the years. It is an inspiring mission of the chapter.