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Independence Women’s Club President Heather Thomas stands inside the club’s historic building in need of an extensive list of renovations.


INDEPENDENCE — A building that was originally purchased for $1 now needs approximately $20,000 in renovations to bring it back to its former glory.

The Historic Independence Woman’s Club is seeking donations and help from the community to restore its building, located at 340 S. Third St.

Independence Club President Heather Thomas said their building has been used for rentals over the years for everything from baptisms to celebrations of life (they give the mortuary across street a special price) and countless dances and birthdays in between.

“You name it, this place has been used for it,” she said.

The small service club, currently with just seven members, has been in the community of Independence since 1914. Thomas said the service club helped form the first PTA in Independence, providing financial support for about five years until it could become self-sufficient. The club was formed to clean up the town of Independence as well as help with forming the original park in Independence and the very first public library (which is still standing).

In 1921, the club purchased an older church built in 1868 for $1 and moved it to its permanent site in 1927.

After years of hosting events, the list of needed upgrades is extensive.

Thomas said the Women’s Club is looking for donations of materials or monetary support to help bring it back to where it should be, including:

Repaint and refurbish the exterior of the building.

Repaint the interior and take down the old wallpaper and restore the wood behind the wallpaper.

Purchase a new furnace to replace an older gas furnace, preferably an electric, ductless system, to also provide comfort in the summer months.

Tear out and redo the bathroom, the last addition to the building.

Thomas blames the pandemic for the club needing so much help with renovation costs.

“We lost $10,000 in revenue last year due to COVID-canceled events,” she said. “The funds we did bring in were only able to go to electricity and gas.”

Thomas has been involved in General Federation of Women’s Clubs since 1998 and with Independence chapter since 2001. She followed in her mother’s footsteps, who was state president from 1994 to 1996. Thomas herself served as state president from 2008 to 2010 and the Independence chapter had another club member who has been state president. Thomas explained being state president also gets you involved with the international organization because you’re on board of directors.

Independence’s Women’s Club volunteers have been busy over the years. Thomas said in the early days, they provided scholarships to the Normal School, which is now Western Oregon University.

“They’d get women back into the working force who lost a husband due to the war, or just because they didn’t want to get married,” Thomas said.

In addition to hosting a lot of concerts throughout its history, the club hired an architect in 1929 and paid for 75% of the first library for Independence. It was re-deeded back to the city arts and education department and is now used for literacy department and sell books for Friends of Library Arts for Ashcreek.

Thomas said the Independence Women’s Club Changed to GFWC General Federation Women’s Club and they remain the only Polk County Service Club remaining, as the one that used to be one in Dallas disbanded in 2000.

Recently, Thomas said their focus has been feeding all the little libraries with books.

“The organization came into possession of 84,000 curriculum books for K-6th grade. Independence got 10,000 to distribute in the community,” she said.

In addition, the Women’s Club has helped foster children, helped the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Buddy Bear program, provided gift baskets for veterans and plans to adopting any women veterans who get lodging in the new veterans apartments being built in Dallas.

With that much volunteer activity, Thomas said things were starting to look up again with every weekend booked with events. That is until the latest uptick in coronavirus put the county back into extreme risk category.

She said it’s been a couple years since the organization received a $7,500 estimate to strip and repaint the exterior. She figures that cost has since ballooned to as much as $12,000. The interior will need another $7,500 in repairs and replacements.

Anyone willing to help by providing material or if companies would like to take on a project, let the service club know. They will make arrangements for you to tour the building and see what needs to be completed. The club would appreciate any monetary or material help or donation of your time.

“We may be very small, but we’re mighty in stature,” Thomas said. “This building needs some tender loving care. We’ve tried, but with so few members, it’s hard to spread the wealth.”

As a 501(c)3 organization, any contribution is tax deductible, Thomas said.

To make a donations online, go to https://givebox.com/521172.

Donations can also be mailed directly to: Independence Woman’s Club, PO Box 392, Independence, OR 97351.

To learn more, contact Thomas at 503-508-3569 or go to Gfwcpolk.com.

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