Mrs. J.H. Woods (Leonora), Founder of The Samaritan Club of Calgary (1910).
For more than 100 years the Samaritan Club of Calgary has had the same objective – to provide short term assistance to Calgarians in need. Initially called “The Young Women’s Benevolent Society”, it was founded in 1910 by Mrs. J.H. Woods (Leonora), wife of the publisher of the Calgary Herald. During WW I the members drove a team of horses with a buckboard around the city collecting junk, rags and paper – the sales of which benefited the Prisoner of War Fund. (One of our early wagons is presently on display at Fort Calgary.) Rummage sales, garden parties, teas, concerts and dances were other sources of revenue.
Each decade has seen changes as the members made an effort to keep up with the times and the changing demographics of the clients they wished to help. The various efforts to raise money have included – Calgary Stampede Futurity Sweepstake ticket sales, the Artists Showcase, and bazaars. However a major part of the work has been the semi-annual garage sales (also known as rummage sales) which have been continuous since 1947. Still held twice a year – it is now at the Hillhurst- Sunnyside Community Hall on the last Saturday of April and September. The fund raising events at present include a golf tournament, a luncheon with card games and a silent auction, and a casino. We also benefit from donations and bequests.
Our pride is in our ability to quickly meet the needs of many Calgarians each year. Living in a big city can be tough. Just getting by can be hard enough but throw in an injury or loss of a job and suddenly the whole family is at risk. We are dedicated to providing help for those in crisis or just needing a “leg up” which can mean groceries, medications, infant formula, bus passes; made available within 24 hours of the request. This is done by a referral from social workers, community support workers and health care professionals. Our funds are also made available for a variety of needs such as education and scholarships, transportation, medical and dental procedures, aids to daily living, Louise Dean School, Christmas toys, and sending special needs children to camp.
Money is budgeted for newborn baby layettes – an integral part of the club since the beginning. Items that were once made by the members are now purchased to help needy mothers - 500 in the past year. These are distributed 4 times a year to hospitals and post-partum facilities in the city.
When there are extra funds available, we have taken on special projects. Over the last 10 years they have included furniture for YWCA Mary Dover House, Audio-Visual equipment for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Sacred Space, gym equipment for the Emily Folinsbee School, a van for Meals on Wheels, and the Kerby Centre Shelter for Older Adults “Move out Fund”.
We do not advertise except by word of mouth and to inform agencies throughout the city about how to contact our volunteers. A final outstanding feature of the Club is that it operates without any administrative overhead. Our members pay an annual fee to ensure that 100% of the funds raised can be directed to those in need.