The Royal Oak Woman’s Club is at risk of losing its clubhouse — the oldest building in the city of Royal Oak, which formerly housed churches and then the village town hall — due to the loss of rental fees in the face of the pandemic.

The Royal Oak Woman’s Club is at risk of losing its clubhouse — the oldest building in the city of Royal Oak, which formerly housed churches and then the village town hall — due to the loss of rental fees in the face of the pandemic.

Photo provided by Shannon Dux


Royal Oak Woman’s Club launches fundraiser to save historic clubhouse

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 27, 2020

 The Royal Oak Woman’s Club displays a marker designating it as a Michigan registered historic site.

The Royal Oak Woman’s Club displays a marker designating it as a Michigan registered historic site.

Photo provided by Shannon Dux

 The Royal Oak Woman’s Club holds a “Save Our Historic Clubhouse” yard sale at the clubhouse Oct. 17.

The Royal Oak Woman’s Club holds a “Save Our Historic Clubhouse” yard sale at the clubhouse Oct. 17.

Photo provided

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ROYAL OAK — Since 1902, the Royal Oak Woman’s Club had gathered for fellowship, fun and fundraising at various locations until it acquired its current clubhouse, which was built in 1839 and originally served as a Baptist church, in 1923.

The building was moved once before coming to rest at its present location at Pleasant and Fourth streets. The historic clubhouse is a sought-after location for occasions of all types, including weddings, baby showers, graduation parties and family reunions.

“Really, anything you can think of for 70-100 people,” Aimee O’Donnell said. “It’s a smaller clubhouse. We have multiple levels, a kitchen and an upstairs event space. It’s very gorgeous. We really work hard at maintaining the property and making sure everything stays beautiful for the public.”

O’Donnell serves as director of Ways and Means of the Royal Oak Woman’s Club. She became a member about six years ago and called the move “the best decision of her life.”

Due to the pandemic, however, the Woman’s Club is at risk of losing the building.

Rental fees generate the funds necessary to maintain the historic building to a specific standard, pay a groundskeeper, cover insurance and the biannual elevator inspections, among other costs.

Sylvia Sopata, president of the Woman’s Club, said the clubhouse was nearly booked solid for the rest of the year; however, the revenue source dried up with the onset of the statewide lockdown in March.

All rentals were suspended, and the clubhouse’s doors remain closed for member activities, such as meetings, gathering to knit caps for newborns and assemble gift baskets, and camaraderie.

In order to raise funds to recover the lost income and save the clubhouse, the Woman’s Club launched a virtual walkathon fundraiser called “Step Out to Help Out.” Registration is now open for the virtual walkathon, which will take place Nov. 1-14.

To register, visit rowc.org/events or visit facebook.com/Royal OakWomansClub. To donate to the cause, visit gofundme.com and search for “Step Out to Help Out Virtual Walkathon.”

“We are asking individuals to dedicate their month of movement throughout November,” O’Donnell said.

During the pandemic, O’Donnell said a bright spot for the club has been its transition to virtual monthly meetings. Its 96 members have been able to see each other via online meeting platform Zoom.

“It’s really nice to be able to get everyone to connect online, see some happy faces and just try to proceed as best we can,” O’Donnell said. “We still do a lot of fundraising and we’re still giving back to the community.”

Membership is open to all genders, ages and municipalities.

The club regularly raises money to sponsor the Royal Oak High School girls softball team, provide scholarships and help charities, including Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan, Ruth Ellis Center, Blessings in a Backpack, Guiding Harbor, Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, Sanctum House, Operation Smile, Soles4Souls, Welcome Inn and more.

Sopata said she most values the friendships forged through the Woman’s Club, as well as the “feel-good vibes” from serving the community.

“Mainly, it’s the feeling that I can contribute back to my community and I can do it with a lot of really neat ladies who are really friendly,” she said.

The clubhouse is located at 404 S. Pleasant St.

For more information about the Royal Oak Woman’s Club, visit rowc.org, call (248) 246-3066 or email contactrowc@gmail.com.

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