Four of the six branches of the Stormont-Dundas District of the Women’s Institute have recently disbanded.
Among them was the district’s largest branch, Riverside Heights. The others were Ingleside, Finch and Newington.
Declining and aging membership has left the district finding it difficult to fill key positions such as president and secretary roles. According to W.I. rules, if those positions cannot be filled at the district level, the lower tier branches lose their governance.
The prospect of that happening resulted in many of this district’s branches making the hurried decision to disband.
“I have really enjoyed this group,” said Florence McManus of the Riverside Heights WI, explaining that decision was a sad and difficult one to make.
“Maybe we should have waited, but it’s done.”
McManus said that it was important to the group, which was formed 54 years ago, to make the decision on their own. “We really didn’t want to be forced into it.”
Having agreed to disband has meant that the club remains in charge of how and where their remaining funds are disbursed.
“We are all very sad that this is happening,” said Beth Short who is in charge of public relations for the district. “Our members are getting older and the world is moving faster. The younger people are just not getting involved, so we are not getting new members. And our older members just can’t keep up the pace.”
“We are all so sad. We didn’t want to see it go that way,” said Short.
The mass disbandment has left only two branches of the WI in this district; Williamsburg and Chesterville.
These two branches have people to fill the key roles and thus have been able to maintain the district.
“It is wonderful that they have done that, and we congratulate them on their efforts,” said Short. She hopes that those who belonged to the disbanding branches will be able join one of the two branches which remains.
For more than a century, Women’s Institute Members have actively worked together for family, home, community and country. The objective of the first Women’s Institute Branch, formed in 1897, was to improve women’s skills in the art of homemaking and childcare.
The Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario was organized in 1919 giving Members a stronger voice by working together as a united group. Through high-quality education and support programs and services, FWIO’s original focus expanded to include personal growth opportunities, government lobbying and health and community wellness initiatives. Today, FWIO has more than 4,500 Members in nearly 350 Branches across the province.