Next meeting of the Mission Beach Women's Club: 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, 2018
• Located in an unpretentious bayfront beach cottage, the Mission Beach Women's Club appears much smaller and more laid back than it really is. Early photos show club members playing on the beach or relaxing on the patio. The club's logo includes the tropical hibiscus flower.
Underneath this fun beach vibe, however, lies a wide-ranging and hard-working spirit of philanthropy, one that has been guiding the club for 92 years.
Although most of the club's 75 members live in Mission Beach, many live in other parts of San Diego, from surrounding neighborhoods like Point Loma , Ocean Beach , Pacific Beach and Clairemont to Mission Hills, La Mesa and Julian.
"They are attracted to our philanthropic energy," explained Cordelia Mendoza, current club president. "We are a very supportive group of women of all ages and our meetings are held in the evenings and include dinner to accommodate working women.
"Our main goal is to help the community; we are always looking for ways to give to the community."
The club holds at least three major fundraisers a year and donates proceeds to an impressive list of community organizations, non-profit groups, schools, public spaces and services, including firefighters, lifeguards and police.
Recently, for example, the club organized the popular Taste of Mission Beach and raised $12,000 for the Pacific Beach Street Guardians. They helped Salute to Soldiers buy a service dog for another $12,000 and helped Fire Station 21 purchase much-needed refrigerators.
Other projects have helped the Santa Clara Recreation Center, lifeguard towers, parking lot lights, the Mission Bay High School sports club, the Beach Area Women's Health Center and the Mission Beach Jetty Kids surf contest. City-wide beneficiaries include Community Solutions for women who are victims of domestic abuse and Rachel's House for homeless children.
During the Christmas holidays, club members assemble care packages for women service members and participate in Adopt a Family.
The club has made it easier for non-profits to apply for grants online, pointed out Mendoza. The deadline is Oct. 31.
In addition to raising money with events, the club also rents out the cottage regularly. "We are blessed with this venue that generates income," explained Nancie Geller, former president and rentals chairperson. About 95 percent of the rentals are to the public, for weddings, memorials, baptisms and other parties.
"It's a very popular wedding venue, very affordable, with a 5-star Yelp rating," added Geller. In addition to a fully equipped kitchen, the clubhouse includes air conditioning, two bathrooms large enough for changing, a large screen, a stage with a sound system and it allows party planners to use their own caterers.
When Geller, a Mission Beach resident for 40 years and well-known San Diego philanthropist, joined the club in 2000, membership had dropped to a handful of elderly woman and the clubhouse was in poor shape. Renting it out was a hard sell, explained Geller: "In 2005, we did a major remodel and got rid of the musty smell. Now we are a smooth-running machine and I'm very proud of our progress."
The clubhouse is so popular that some groups have already booked it through 2020. "Our manager Nancy Miller does a great job," Geller added.
The original cottage was built in the mid-1920s on land donated by the Mission Beach Land Company for community use. Called the Shirley House, it was occupied during the 1920s and '30s by the YWCA, where women could vacation for $1 a day, including three meals. In the meantime, the Mission Beach Women's Club was formed in 1926 by 10 local women, many Navy wives, who met in one another's homes. They also met at the Mission Beach Amusement Center, which opened in 1925 (renamed Belmont Park in the 1950s).
In 1939, they purchased the Shirley House for $3,200 and paid off the loan the next year.
Within two years, the club had a reputation for being one of the most active in the national federation. Some of the early projects included planting palm trees on the bayside walk and instigating regular trash pick-up.
Today, the Women's Club includes close to 20 committees (falling under stewardship, service and social categories). Members are expected to serve on at least two committees a year as well as help host events and pay membership dues. The club is a 501(c)(4) organization with a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation. In 2005, they broke away from the national federation, wanting more independence and flexibility.
Current president Cordelia Mendoza joined the group in 2010 just before selling her antique business in Ocean Beach. She and her retired teacher husband live in Point Loma where they run an estate-sale business, but she has early ties to Mission Beach. Her great-grandfather operated the roller-coaster at Belmont Park, her grandparents were regular Mission Beach vacationers and her brother a lifeguard.
Her passion for philanthropy began early. Born with a heart defect, Mendoza had successful surgery at age 10. Three years later, she and her identical twin sister (who did not have a heart defect) represented the San Diego County Heart Association as the Heart Fund Twins. In high school, she volunteered as a hospital Pink Lady.
"I felt I was given a second chance and had to give back," she said. Now volunteering in Mission Beach, she feels she is giving back to a community she loves. Her twin sister Cathy Scott, a true-crime author, also belongs to the club.
Past president Geller also shares the commitment to philanthropy. A non-practicing attorney, she helps her husband Marc run his law office and participates in many charities, including the Thursday Club, the Rady Hospital, Patrons of the Prado and the Polinsky Children's Center Auxiliary (which she co-founded).
When she was approached by the Women's Club for a donation 18 years ago, she wrote a check, but then was soon drawn into club's mission and energy. "It's a wonderful assortment of women, with different personalities and backgrounds, women who support each other and have fun," she said.
Mission Beach Women's Club
Address: 840 Santa Clara Place, San Diego, CA 92109
Phone: (858) 488-2628
Year established: 1926
No. of Members: 75
Next Meeting: 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, 2018