Women flock to iconic downtown building to honor their own



By Cynthia Price

The Greater Muskegon Woman’s Club has been holding its Women of Accomplishment Breakfast for 22 years.

That seems like a long time, but it pales in comparison to how long the club has been in existence – they consider their founding date to be 1890 – and to the amount of time they have occupied the beautiful building on the corner of Webster and Second Street in downtown Muskegon.

It was in 1902 that the club’s philanthropy-minded women succeeded in building their own clubhouse, and it has been continuously occupied by the membership since 1903.

The Greater Muskegon Woman's Club’s mission is “to serve as a community catalyst and cultural touchstone for all women; to unify and empower through education, service, scholarship, philanthropy and social activities; to provide and preserve a unique, historic meeting place in the heart of Muskegon’s renaissance district.”

One of the largest crowds in recent memory showed up last Saturday to honor three locals as Women of Accomplishment.

After a delicious breakfast, Club President Nancy Bierenga, whose granddaughter Tressa Meyer entertained on the oboe during the ceremony, gave the first award to Stephanie Kerr-Cathey. While Bierenga spoke, former Muskegon resident Gloria White Gardner, who was driven back for the occasion, handed out the awards.

Kerr-Cathey, who is currently the Muskegon County program manager for Kids Food Basket has a long history of working on and leading service organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls On The Run, the Polar Plunge, the Committee for Jail and Juvenile Transition Center, Hackley Community Care, and several others.

The daughter of Claudia Kerr, she said in her acceptance remarks that she was raised on voluntarism and never considered living her life any other way.

The next recipient was “Dollie” Dardinella Bacon Hippchen. Literally decades of community service have, apparently, kept the 75-year-old Hippchen young and vibrant. She has been a hard worker in such organizations as the Nelson Neighborhood Association and Master Gardeners, but has also founded other organizations, including the Black Women’s Political Caucus. Her current activities include volunteering with AmeriCorps, Michigan’s Restorative Justice Program, and chairing the scholarship committee of the NAACP.

Hippchen thanked God and her family for supporting her efforts.

The final awardee was former State Representative Holly Hughes. In addition to her political service, Hughes co-founded the annual Veteran’s Job Fair and co-organized the Legends Veterans Flight a few years back. She has also been on the Senior Resource and Muskegon Promise Zone boards, the Early Childhood Thrive Foundation, and the White Lake Recyclers.

Before she expressed her thanks, Hughes called up Kay Olthoff to receive the Women of Accomplishment Award she was honored with last year but could not physically receive. Olthoff and Hughes both looked very happy about the completion of that.

Following the awards, Christine Robere of the United Way gave the keynote address, telling stories about those who fall under ALICE, the “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.” Robere said that she had grown up as part of the large number of ALICE citizens, in a single-parent home with just what her mother could bring home while still caring for her and her siblings. She said that as United Way reached out to ALICE individuals in Muskegon County, “they told us that just the fact we’re talking about this let them know they’re not doing something wrong.”

The Examiner will include more about the most recent ALICE?report in a future issue.

People can support the Greater Muskegon Woman’s Club by becoming members, donating at www.muskegonwomansclub.org, renting the space for events, or by attending any of its fundraisers. Next up is Junk To Jewels on May 8-11.