Jamaica Benefit Association celebrates 100 years


JAMAICA -- This month marks the Jamaica Benefit Association's 100th year in service.

"This is big for us," said president Bette Dawson.

The organization will celebrate its birthday at a luncheon on June 5 at the Community Church. It was scheduled for then because some of its members had made plans and would not be in town during May.

For this special luncheon, the group has invited its regular members, former members and other guests to attend.

The Jamaica Benefit Association was formerly known as the Ladies' Benefit Society of Jamaica when it first met on May 9, 1914. According to historical documents, there were 40 women present at the meeting. Their idea was to beautify the streets of Jamaica and encourage people to take pride in their town.

One of the organization's first decisions was to raise funds to lay cement down for new sidewalks. Throughout the years, the group contributed funding for additional sidewalks.

There were various fundraisers and sales as well as plays put on. Jamaica Old Home Day began its annual run, which had started as a way to celebrate the town.

The organization partially funded the rectifying of Town Hall and the congregational church that currently houses the Community Church. It also assisted in getting roadsides painted and cleaning up cemeteries for Memorial Day.

According to documents, $700 was given to the town's fire department in 1939 for equipment and money was given to the town in the 1970's to plant salt resistant maple trees along the center of the village.

Each year, the organization gives an award to a sixth-grader from Jamaica Village School in the memory of Eleanor Monroe. She was 2 years old when her mother and other women formed the group.

In 1998, voters decided to change the name of the organization to the Jamaica Benefit Association.

Under the direction of J Stone in 2006, a heritage quilt was donated to the Town Hall. Squares were sold to residents who wanted their name imprinted on it. A total of $2,000 was raised through those efforts.

In 2011, the group donated $500 to the Stratton Fund to assist in flood relief efforts after Tropical Storm Irene.

Every December, members donate money to the Reformer Stocking and Community Food Bank.

Dawson said that the historical information was provided through history books but also from earlier meeting minutes. The minutes only go back to 1947, she says.

"We don't know what happened to the minutes of previous meetings. We suspect someone moved or died and their heirs didn't know what to do with them," she said.

The organization holds a senior luncheon on the first Thursday of every month at noon. Currently, there are approximately 40 members.

"Now, younger women are working and we meet at noon," said Dawson. "We're thinking of possibly having evening meetings to get more women to come."

For more information, call Dawson at 802-874-4470.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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