The Mesquite Club’s roots run deep in Las Vegas — which is appropriate because two trees have played significant roles in the club’s history.
Founded in 1911, the Mesquite Club is the oldest women’s service organization in Las Vegas, said Jerrie Pearson, former president, who was succeeded by Vera Knox on Friday.
Among the club’s early projects, Pearson said, was the founding of the town’s first library. And within the first few years that the club was in existence, she added, members planted 2,000 cottonwood trees and watered them every day.
Why mesquites for the club’s name, and cottonwoods for an early project?
The first members chose to honor the mesquite, she said, “because there were so many of them around here at that time.” They tend to spring up, she said, where there’s underground water.
“But they don’t offer shade,” she said. “We needed the shade, so that’s why they planted the cottonwood trees.”
Other club projects have involved increasing enlightenment as opposed to casting shade.
“We started Secret Witness, which is now Crime Stoppers, along with the Rotary Club,” Pearson said. “We set up an endowment fund” at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“This year we gave $4,000 to Safe House and $4,000 to Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth,” she added. “We have worked to build playgrounds for the children in the community, set up the USO during the beginning part of World War II.
“We’ve just done this sort of thing throughout our history. We have donated thousands upon thousands of dollars to various organizations throughout the city. We have a long history of giving every year — The Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Miracle Flight, Opportunity Village.”
This year’s focus, she said, is on organizations involved in the fight against domestic violence. That’s currently the focus of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, of which the Mesquite Club is a member.
“I just know what the need is and so I carried on with that,” Pearson said. “It’s such a great need, such a huge problem. There are so many children homeless because of that.”
Pearson said the club has had special fundraisers but that for the most part, the money has been raised within the organization, through luncheons and drawings and fashion shows. The Mesquite Club has had as many as 300-plus members, and now numbers 206.
The club has recessed for the summer, she said, meeting October through May. During the club season, meetings take place on three Fridays a month — usually the first three Fridays — at the clubhouse on East St. Louis Avenue. There also is an evening Mesquite group for those who can’t make daytime meetings. Those members, she said, “are still working, for the most part.”
“Mesquite is for the most part retired women, widows,” Pearson said. “When we were young, the ladies were the wives of the city fathers. Of course, they’re getting older. Some of them have been members for years. The ones who are coming in are usually retired business and professional women.”
The club also is working on restarting a Young Mesquite Club, for young adult women.
For information on membership in the Mesquite Club, call the clubhouse at 735-6722.