Author Theresa Schwegel signs a copy of her book "The Good Boy" for Flossmoor Book Club member Mary Lu Larsen at a February meeting. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 27, 2014 6:29AM
While some organizations are losing members whose schedules are getting too busy, the Flossmoor Book Club is thriving.
“We had to change the bylaws last year. It used to be limited to 100 when I joined, but last year we raised the limit to 125,” book club president Martha Fahey said. “It’s been growing in recent years.”
Fahey, a member for nearly 10 years, is a former elementary school teacher who lived in Flossmoor for “half her life,” she said, and now resides in Frankfort.
Fahey said she thinks part of the club’s appeal is that it is “entertaining.”
“People can check books out because we have our own lending library. ... and we have a speaker at each meeting,” she said.
Fahey said the book club differs from others in the area because the monthly meetings are not book discussions among members centered on one book. Instead, the meeting has a program format with either a speaker who presents a book review or an author who reviews his or her own book.
The meetings also include short reviews of new books — about eight on a monthly basis — by library committee members.
“And there are refreshments, too,” Fahey said.
Whatever the reason, something about the club is definitely working. It is nearly 80 years old and never has had a bigger membership, according to club records dating back to the mid-1930s.
Notes compiled from newspaper articles and club records kept by longtime member Rosemarie Baillies. 93, reveal a history of a club that has reflected the times.
In the 1940s, the club met in the Flossmoor Community Church. Dues were $2 and club funds sometimes were used for the World War II effort through the National War Fund and the CARE Book Fund.
By 1949, the club had made some changes, including opening meetings to the public, creating a “Get Acquainted Tea” and inviting outside reviewers.
By 1967, the club spread its wings, raising the membership limit to 100 people and joining the Friends of American Writers, a group that meets once a month in Chicago, Fahey said.
Baillies, of Glenwood, said she joined in 1969, partly to have access to the lending library and partly to make friends after moving into Homewood. As an 18-year resident of Joliet, where she was active in Girl Scouts and PTA, Baillies said she was hoping to become involved in community activities when she moved to the Homewood area. She said the Flossmoor Book Club offered her the opportunity.
Baillies was one of 20 members at the time, eventually becoming the book club president.
“I never minded a responsibility,” she said.
The club continued to change with the times, increasing fees to meet the cost of getting quality speakers, higher rents and book costs.
The membership fee now is $25, part of which supplies a very comfortable and roomy venue at Temple B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood.
Fahey said members, many of whom are retirees, do not have to navigate stairs to attend meetings, and they sit at large, round tables with comfortable seating.
“So this is really nice because afterward people can visit,” she said.
Meetings are held from 1 to about 3 p.m. on the third Friday of the month September through April, except January.
Annual events include a March book sale at which the members are able to buy “old books” which have been in the club’s lending library for five years and no longer are circulating regularly. Those books which are not sold are donated to a literacy group, Fahey said.
The club’s annual luncheon will be May 16 at the Flossmoor Country Club, 1441 Western Ave. Tickets are $32 and include lunch and a “Below Stairs” presentation by speaker, historian, actress and author Leslie Goddard.
Baillies said she still is enjoying her membership after 45 years with the Flossmoor Book Club because “I enjoy reading but I also enjoy people very much.”
For more information, email Fahey at firstname.lastname@example.org.