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Where Losing is as Much Fun as Winning: Santa Clara Woman’s Club “Re-Gifting” Auction

Where Losing is as  Much Fun as Winning: Santa Clara Woman's Club

While Santa Clara inaugurates the holiday season on the first Friday of December by lighting the City Christmas tree, you could say the season comes to an end officially on the first Friday in January. That’s when the Santa Clara Woman’s Club helps folks clear out the holiday overload with its annual re-gifting auction.

The auction helps fund the Club’s charitable activities and its nursing scholarship, as well as maintenance of its historic 1790 adobe.

As always, the offerings including unexpected bargains like the netbook that sold for $26 and an HP photo printer that went for $10, decorative items like a Peruvian folk art blanket, and delicate porcelain vases and candles, to things you never knew existed like a strong of decorative lights shaped like cows and a whimsically strange set of Hobbit Pez dispensers.

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As usual, Marlene O’Donnell ran the show as auctioneer and played it for plenty of laughs – assisted by Darlene Volkey. “If you don’t buy it here, you’re going to get it as a prize at Bingo,” O’Donnell warned.

Bidding was spirited and, as always, certain club members were suspected of driving up the bidding to increase club revenues. At one point the irrepressible Laura Mahan bid against herself in her zeal to support the club. And by the time the last item was packed up by its new owner, everyone went home happy.

More Than a Century of Community Commitment

On Friday afternoon March 25, 1904, a group of women met to form Santa Clara Women’s club. Since then, the club has meet continuously and has achieved an impressive record of contribution to the community, including a nursing scholarship fund and donations to groups as varied as the Senior Center, Bill Wilson Center, JW House, and Loaves and Fishes.

Since 1913, the club has met at the Adobe on 3260 The Alameda. The building is a 1790 structure; dating back to the time of the third Mission Santa Clara church, dedicated in 1784 by Father Junipero Serra. It’s possibly the oldest surviving adobe in Northern California – San Jose’s Peralta Adobe was built in 1797, the Berryessa Adobe in the 1840s, and the current Mission Church in 1926.

After the missions were secularized in the 1830s, the house and 100 ‘varas’ – about 100 square yards – of land were granted to Don Jose Pena. Following Pena’s death in 1852, his widow Gertrudis and daughter-in-law Concepcion began selling the land surrounding the adobe.

The property eventually passed to Conception’s brother-in-law, Thomas Brother, who “loved the old adobe building and kept it in good condition,” according to the late historian and long-time Santa Clara resident Bea Lichtenstein. The adobe’s construction was so solid that Lichtenstein said it was one of very few structures in the City to survive the 1906 earthquake completely intact.

After Brother’s death, the Women’s Club purchased the building and the surrounding 60 by 147 foot lot in 1913 for $350.

From 2003 to 2004, much of the organization’s time and effort, supported by a city grant, was dedicated to renovating the historic structure, which had been damaged by water. That year longtime club member Angie Souza volunteered her time to renovate the garden, which had grown shabby over the years. The ongoing expense to maintain and insure the building is entirely born by the club.

The Santa Clara Women’s Club’s monthly lunch is held the first Friday of every month at the Adobe on 3260 The Alameda. Visitors are always welcome, but lunch reservations are required. The club’s next fundraiser is its annual Fashion Show, slated this year on April 16. The Adobe can be rented for private events. For information, call (408) 246-8000.

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