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Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

Celebrating 100 years - and still going strong

Independence-based women's club marks milestone anniversary in the community

Independence Women’s Club member Mary Oliveros leafs through a scrapbook of current and deceased members of the club in the clubhouse, 340 Third St., Independence.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Independence Women’s Club member Mary Oliveros leafs through a scrapbook of current and deceased members of the club in the clubhouse, 340 Third St., Independence.

February 25, 2014

INDEPENDENCE — The Independence/Polk County Service Club has gone by many names in the last 100 years, but kept the same purpose: serving the community.

It started as the Independence Civic Club, or Independence Women’s Club, in February 1914, with the intent to bring a public library to Independence.

“You’ll find that almost all the clubs in the state of Oregon formed for the same reason, to make sure there were public libraries for people to have books to read,” said club president Heather Thomas.

Now, club members support head start programs, education, and anything else they can find in the community, including Sable House, H2O and the local food bank, she said.

In 1921, the Presbyterian Church donated its building to the club for $1, plus the cost of relocating the building 2 miles to where it is now, at 340 Third St., Independence, Thomas said.

The club donated the land in front of its new clubhouse to the city to build Independence’s first library. Now, it maintains the old building, built in 1862, and rents it out for community events.

Preserving the building was the main reason Billie Kay Herrell joined the club in the late 1980s.

“They were worried about the club, that they’d try and sell the building,” Herrell recalled. “A lady … made me promise the building would be preserved, always kept for the community.”

And so Herrell followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother before her and joined the Independence Women’s Club.

“I promised her that as long as I lived here, that building would be kept up and useful for the community,” she said.

And it has, with an updated, state-certified professional kitchen and plans to remodel the bathroom, it is an economical facility to rent for any occasion, Thomas said.

“Whenever someone needs a place, and their living room isn’t big enough, we rent out the hall,” Herrell said. In fact, one of her greatest pleasures of belonging to the service club is when groups rent out the clubhouse.

“I enjoy going down there and visiting with the people, opening up the building and making sure everything’s ready for their baby showers, birthdays, small weddings,” Herrell said. “That, to me, is very enjoyable — watching the community use the building.”

In its early days, the club was responsible for painting telephone poles to keep them from dropping sap on people and the pavement, Thomas said.

“Originally, the fire hydrants had to all be painted, too,” she said. “They (club members) were instrumental in getting those painted as well.”

Members of the Junior Women’s Club, which Herrell’s mom belonged to before joining the Women’s Club — she thought she was too young to belong to the Women’s Club, Herrell explained — donated the land for Henry Hill Park. Others planted trees in Independence and Monmouth parks.

Let’s Celebrate

• The Independence/Polk County Service Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday at the clubhouse, 340 Third St., Independence.

• Anyone who wants to be involved in the community and enjoys the fellowship of other women is welcome to club meetings on the first Thursday of each month. For more information: Heather Thomas, 503-508-3569 or email

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