Hurst-based group going out with a final, lasting gift

HURST -- Since 1961, members of the Oak Crest Woman's Club have been steady supporters of those in need, providing scholarships to deserving students, donating money to charities helping battered women and the homeless, and making Christmas gifts for senior citizens.

But now, 51 years later, the Hurst-based club "is aged and moneyed out," said Joyce Evans, the group's president.

The organization, whose members' average age is 75, will conduct its last meeting in May.

"We were reading about a member who died at 77, and someone said, 'She was just 77!'" Evans said. "I said, 'Ladies, when you were 30, did you imagine yourself saying 'She was just 77!'? Another member said 'I never imagined saying 'She was just 80!'"

Though the club is now bringing in less money than it spends, it isn't without assets, Evans said.

Like many other members, she would like to see those assets continue the club's mission.

"I've enjoyed the work, and we accomplished a lot of stuff," she said.

Oak Crest has earned prestige with events like home tours and fashion shows, and with the things it has done with the proceeds.

For instance, the club funded scholarships to students from L.D. Bell, Trinity, Haltom, Richland, Grapevine, Colleyville Heritage and Birdville high schools, and did it unconventionally. Unlike typical scholarships reserved for seniors at the top of their class, Oak Crest awards recognized effort, motivation, determination and financial need.

Oak Crest also gave scholarships to nursing students at Tarrant County College, which remains the focus of the members' final philanthropic act.

The club will donate its property at 1616 Precinct Line Road to the Tarrant County College Foundation to endow a permanent scholarship fund.

Joe McIntosh, the foundation's executive director, said that means nursing students will continue to benefit from Oak Crest's generosity.

"The legacy, work and community leadership of this club will continue for generations through the lives of nurses as they tend to and meet the physical needs of citizens literally throughout the region," he said.

Tarrant Appraisal District said the 1.3-acre property is worth $433,582 but valued the 5,451-square-foot, 1968 building at $100.

Lonnie Hendry, a senior commercial appraiser with the appraisal district, explained that because of new construction surrounding the property, "it's possible that the structure is a value-limiting factor. It's our opinion that if someone purchased the property, in all likelihood they would tear the building down."

A 2.2-acre property just south of the clubhouse, site of a QuikTrip gas station, is valued at $1.76 million.

McIntosh said the market will determine the property's value.

"It's a lovely piece of property that we feel will be highly desirable," he said.

Dissolving the club is "a bittersweet transition time" for Oak Crest members, McIntosh said.

"They determined this is the best use of the club's assets so that they will continue to have an impact."

History of giving

The club has also supported such charities as North East Emergency Distribution and the Day Resource Center for homeless people in Fort Worth, as well as battered women and children through Women's Haven of Fort Worth and Open Arms Home Inc. in North Richland Hills.

Former Star-Telegram columnist Pat Riddle wrote in 1992: "When Oak Crest members make a decision to help someone, they are steadfast."

But Oak Crest hasn't been only about helping; its members have enjoyed one another's company through a variety of activities.

An Oct. 2, 1997, Star-Telegram article said the club had "11 activity groups from antiques and collectibles to interior decorating to travel," and each social group had its cause.

"The needlework group makes Christmas gifts for the Boulevard Manor Nursing Home," the story said. "The night couple's bridge group is donating to Easter Seal Society and raising money for Christmas gifts for senior citizens at John Peter Smith Hospital."

Some groups had bake sales, while others provided thousands of volunteer hours to favorite causes.

Members even flexed their political muscles. In 1996 the club helped persuade the Hurst City Council to deny a permit for an automotive garage on less than an acre next to the clubhouse.

"We are not opposed to community development," member Paula Packer said at the time. "We are opposed to detrimental uses of property around us."

No younger people

Club historian Shirley Wernicke said Oak Crest was started by members of a book club, and at one point membership grew to more than 200.

"I remember we had to go to a restaurant in Arlington on [Farm Road] 157 ... because there was no restaurant in Hurst that was large enough for our general meeting," she said.

Evans said that today there are about 72 members and a board of 19.

The decision to dissolve wasn't easy, but it's irreversible.

"It's sort of like with church," Evans said. "As people get older they want to turn the jobs over to younger people. We don't have any younger people."

But if other members are like Evans, they won't buy a rocking chair just because Oak Crest dissolves.

"I have several choices of what to do after it closes," she said.

"Hurst has a brand-new senior citizens center that does a lot of things. I've already had an invitation to join Fort Worth Women's Club, and there are others."

Evans said she's never before had time for all the things women do at her church, First United Methodist Hurst, where she has been in the choir for 54 years.

"I probably will get more into that," she said. "That's what keeps you young."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @NETarrantNews