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Conroe Service League Longtime Conroe Ladies Service Group Celebrates 60 years in 2016
By Sondra Hernandez

Staff Photo by Jason Fochtman
The Conroe Service League is celebrating 60 years of service to the Conroe community this year. Pictured is the group’s resale shop, The Bargain Box, at 123 N. Thompson in downtown Conroe

In 1955, Conroe was quite a different place.

“It was a small town, there was really nothing here, just the square,” said Karron Fowler, a Conroe native, who was a young student in the mid-1950s.

Back then, the Crighton Theatre was still showing movies and a trip to Houston was required for any exposure to the arts.

And the sick, needy and families in crisis in the area, had no where to turn to for any type of assistance.

A group of 12 enterprising Conroe women came together in 1955 and sought to fill those community needs and many others through the creation of the Conroe Service League.

Early beginnings of the Conroe Service League

In 1955, the Conroe Service League was organized with 12 charter members.

Mrs. Jack Clark Jr. was elected president and Mrs. A. L. Moore vice president. Other charter members were Mrs. Henry Bell, Mrs. Mark Everett, Mrs. Seth Gipson, Mrs. J Sam Hunt, Mrs. Oliver Kneisley, Mrs. J. Ross Martin, Mrs. Russell Tickner, Mrs. Charles Tigner, Mrs. Stanford Pitts and Mrs. C. Lee Williamson. Many were the wives of Conroe’s business owners and civic leaders at the time.

Photo courtesy Conroe Service League

Pictured are Conroe Service League members from 1956-1957 year. L-R: Mrs. J. L Pitts a56-57, Mrs. Charles Tigner - charter, Mrs. Mack Everett Jr - Charter, Mrs. Stanford Pitts - charter, Mrs. Russell Law 56-57, Mrs. C. L Williamson - charter, Mrs. Jack Nelson 56-57, Mrs. W. C. McClain 56-57, Mrs. Karl Fisher 56-57, Mrs. Oliver Kneisley -charter, Mrs. Seth Gibson - charter, Mrs. T. S. Falvey - sponsor, Mrs. J. N. Simpson Jr - sponsor, Mrs. Jack Clarke - charter and Mrs. J. S. Hunt - charter and sponsor

“This group was probably formed over coffee after their kids got to school,” said Cheryl Fullen, current Conroe Service League president. “They talked about how there was a need for this type of group.”

Members of the Lufkin Service League and the Junior League were helpful with suggestions for organization and by-laws, according to a history of the group.

The charter members agreed that the purpose of the league would be to foster interest among its members and the community in the social, economic, educational, cultural and civic conditions in the area and to make more effective their volunteer efforts to better them.

According to the history, the charter members plunged into the city’s most glaring needs among the sick, needy and children of the community.

The Conroe Service League was the first organized group of volunteer workers at the Montgomery County Hospital.

The league assembled the county’s first list of needy families and assured they were cared for a Christmas time.

Nurturing Conroe’s cultural exposure

The league organized the first summer reading, music and art appreciation programs in 1956.

Photo Courtesy of Conroe Service League
Judy Robert, one of the "picture" ladies who taught art history. Photo from the 1972 Conroe Service League scrapbook.

The students of the area enjoyed an annual tour of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, regular visits from the “picture ladies” to the schools with famous works of art, the Houston Symphony Young Audience Group of musicians in the public schools and live dramatic presentations by the National Children’s Theater of New York.

At the time, these activities were a pretty big deal to the students of the community.

Conroe Service League Sustainer Representative Karron Fowler was one of the young students who got to ride the bus to Houston for the museum trips.

“At the time, that was a long way on the bus,” she said.

Fowler’s mother, Beverly Cochran, was a member of the service league and as a youth, Fowler was able to experience some of the group’s programs first hand.

The lasting impression later moved Fowler to become a long-time member of the group in her adult years.

Laurie Devereaux moved to Conroe in 1959 and became a member of the service league in 1960.

Her next-door neighbor was a charter member and piqued her interest in the group.

Devereaux was a “picture lady” and went into the local schools presenting art appreciation programs to the students.

“It was wonderful and very exciting to be a part of that,” Devereaux said.

She was also involved in taking students to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

“They loved it,” she said. “They were very responsive to it and asking wonderful questions. Sometimes we had to deepen our research (to answer their questions.)

“We felt like it was a need that was not being met otherwise,” she said.

Eventually the program was absorbed by Conroe ISD.

The birth of The Bargain Box

As the community needs grew, so did the need for funds to provide them.

The league opened the first Bargain Box in May 1957 at 107 Simonton Street.

It had the dual purpose of providing good, used merchandise to the public at a nominal cost and to help the league finance its charity projects.

The Bargain Box moved to several locations in its history, but always remained close to Downtown Conroe.

Photo courtesy of Conroe Service League
Working out the final details, Kaleidoscope Program Chairman Eloise Vannoy, CISD supervisor of curriculum, discusses schedules with Lucinda Owen, coordinator of the 111 Conroe Service League volunteers who assisted in the workshop. From the 1972 Conroe Service League scrapbook.

League volunteers took turns manning The Bargain Box. Many of the donations for the shop came from the group’s sustainer members who weren’t active members but still support the group and gather for social purposes.

Devereaux said she always enjoyed sorting and labeling the clothes and working with the people who came in.

“I always felt like it was a way for people going through a hard time to keep their dignity and that was important,” she said.

Staff photo by Jason Fochtman

Becky Greenfield sorts clothes at the Bargain Box, part of the Conroe Service League, Wednesday in Conroe, January 27, 2016.

Today The Bargain Box is located at 123 North Thompson Street in downtown Conroe. It moved to its current location in 1978.

The shop is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

More Noted CSL Projects

For 43 years the Conroe Service League decorated Christmas trees at the library.

It was always a special time for Conroe Service League Recording Secretary Marcia Reagan when she was young.

“I can remember as a child going to the library to see the Christmas trees,” she said. “The opening of the trees was a big deal with a choir.”

In the 1980s, when the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County was being organized, the museum board partnered with the CSL to raise funds to kick off the museum.

CSL hosted a grand gala and $22,000 was raised for the museum.

In 1976, during the American Bicentennial, the CSL served as sponsoring organization for Conroe and Montgomery County’s celebration. A $1,000 donation was made to help establish a war memorial park in Downtown Conroe.

The league continues to award scholarships to students, provide juice and milk to children at the Metropolitan Day Care Center, support Montgomery County Youth Services and partner with the Conroe Noon Lions Club to provide audio/visual screenings to children in the community.

Celebrating a legacy

The league is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2016 and looks forward to change and growth within the organization.

“The group is constantly changing,” noted Fullen. “But it still has the same basics.”

When the group started in 1955, it was mostly women who didn’t work. Today, there are women of all ages and professions in the ranks.

The group has 36 active members and 494 local women have been a part of the program since its start.

There are several families where multiple generations of families have been a part of the group.

Devereaux’s daughter, Mimi, is a newer member of the league and Mimi’s daughter, Misti Daniel, is exploring membership in the group.

“It’s nice to know that it’s been around for that long for both of us to have been members,” Mimi Devereaux said. “That it continues on and on is very comforting and secure.”

The Conroe Service League will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a fundraising gala on Feb. 6 at The Village Golf Club in Panorama Village.

Visit www.conroeserviceleague.com for more about the organization.

Conroe Service League ONGOING Projects

The Bargain Box - The Bargain Box was established in 1957 as a nonprofit organization for the dual purpose of providing good used merchandise for the public at a nominal cost and to help the League finance its charitable projects. It’s at 123 North Thompson Street in downtown Conroe. Hours of operation are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Call 936-756-3121 for more.

Audio/Visual provides a free screening program in coordination with the Conroe Noon Lion’s Club for preschool children in the community.

Family Outreach works with the youth that reside at the Montgomery County Youth Services facilities. Bridgeway houses teens and young adults who cannot live at home due to unfortunate circumstances. The League provides monthly activities, hosts a Back to School party at the Bargain Box, hosts a Christmas party at Bridgeway, and includes them in community service projects.

Scholarships are awarded to students from Montgomery County schools who are seeking a degree in fine arts. In recent years we have given scholarships to seniors who were singers, drummers, artists, pianists, and other talented students.

Website: www.conroeserviceleague.com



Conroe Courier

January 31, 2015




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