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The Cookbook & PCDC

Last month’s article described the needlepoint project carried out by the Women of St. John’s. But this was just one of several projects undertaken by that group of enterprising women. They continually devised ways to raise funds and apply them to the needs of individuals, the church and the community.

Their fund-raising activities included bake sales, an annual bazaar, selling pecans, creating Christmas cards and note cards with local and historical motifs, serving a weekly luncheon in the community center next to the church, and–certainly their largest and most financially successful project–collecting recipes and publishing a cookbook.

They distributed the money earned through these activities to various worthwhile causes. For example, in the early 50s they supported the education of a Japanese boy, Samuel Matsuoka. They purchased supplies for the church’s Sunday School rooms, bought curtains and other items for the Eastwood House, paid for painting and curtains in the Rector’s office and meeting room in the first parish hall addition, bought brass standards for the altar, and–their most lasting contribution to the community–provided the seed money to establish the Parent-Child Development Center of West Point.

The rest of this article will focus on the last-mentioned item in each of the previous two paragraphs, because they were intimately connected. Some of the proceeds derived from sales of the cookbook were immediately applied to helping the PCDC get started. The timing could not have been more propitious, for just as the cookbook’s earnings became available, conditions for setting up this invaluable community institution had become ripe.

The cookbook, which originally appeared in 1970 and was twice reprinted, presented itself as part of the observance of West Point’s centennial celebration. Betty Lewis, president of the Women of St. John’s at the time, coordinated its production. In her foreword to it, she described the historical significance of West Point and surrounding counties, and expressed the hope that “these contributions to gastronomy will prove worthy of the richness of the heritage that is ours.” That heritage was illustrated through accompanying line drawings by a local artist, Lollie Prince.

Perusal of the recipes reveals that they are indeed “worthy of the richness of the heritage that is ours.” They cover a broad range of culinary delights, from appetizers and beverages to soups, main dishes, breads, desserts, and even sauces and marinades, pickles and preserves. This writer was so taken with them that he scanned them into his computer and printed and bound them for himself. It would now be a small step to republish the cookbook, perhaps in an updated and expanded version. To whet our appetite for such an effort, reprints of individual recipes will appear in future newsletters, as space permits.

A summary of the cookbook sales between January 1970 and January 1980 shows that a total of 4,000 copies were printed and sold in that period. According to an order form in the back of the book, the price for an individual copy (including postage) was $3, and according to the financial report, about 2/3 of that amount was needed to cover expenses. Thus the group made a little over $1 per copy. This provided a hefty sum to distribute among various worthy causes.

As mentioned above, the dream of a parent-child development center for the West Point area began to be realized at this very moment. In a telephone interview for this article, Carol Fox, who now lives in Reedville, described how Mrs. Charles Streshly, the wife of a Presbyterian missionary, gave a talk at the church in the spring of 1971 about their work in early education in Africa, and this set the women to thinking about how they might instigate similar efforts here at home. They visited the York County PCDC and decided to try to set up a similar facility in West Point. As luck would have it, the Catholic school building was vacant, and tables and chairs from the old public elementary school had just become available due to the construction of a new school. Thus with a grant of $500 from the Women of St. John’s and the work of many volunteers, the Parent-Child Development Center of West Point was able to open in October, 1971. This facility still carries out its highly important mission today, and has even established Head Start programs in Mathews, Middlesex and Gloucester counties. All of these programs depend upon both government and private support to continue their work.

Together with all of the other beneficial projects to which they contributed, this is a legacy of which the members of the Women of St. John’s can be proud.