Martha Michael | The Strong Women of Agua Dulce

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If you have any dealings in Agua Dulce, chances are you’ve run into some strong women in the process.

Their synergy, not to mention talent, was evident last weekend at the 25th Annual Parade of Tables put on by the Agua Dulce Women’s Club. The holiday spirit filled a hangar at the Agua Dulce Airport, thanks to airport owners Wayne and Connie Spears, who let the club use it for the event.

Dozens of tables were extravagantly adorned with satin and tulle, set with fine china, linens and silver, each table leader’s personal expression. Centerpieces were eye-catching tiers of everything from flowers to reindeer – even tree branches. Everything was elaborate. There were chairs with butterfly wings at one table, while at another, Father Time stood at the center surrounded by plates with a pattern of clock faces.

With a current membership of about 170, the Agua Dulce Women’s Club added to its celebration this year a “Lifetime Achievement Award,” which they gave to Lillian Smith, who has published the Agua Dulce-Acton Country Journal for decades. 

Donna Chipperfield, past president of both the Agua Dulce Women’s Club and the SCV Quilt Guild, creates a large quilt for the raffle each year. This time she brought sewing machines to the Women’s Club so eight members got to have a hand in it as well. For some, it was their first time sewing.

The Parade of Tables is the main fundraiser for the 70-year-old nonprofit, and a reminder that many of those involved are a part of the town’s core group.

Active club member Mary Johnson has been on the Agua Dulce Town Council since 2005. She’s known to champion the area’s trails, mostly to maintain what the townspeople value. 

“It’s key, to me, because if we lose our trails, we lose our rural lifestyle,” she said, adding details that revealed her passion for the solitude of country living.

When local kids want to learn to ride, many turn to Nancy Cochran of Happy Trails who, like Sandra Lang, who owns the gift store Bullwinkel’s, is another Agua Dulce woman serving the community with her talents. 

But what can’t be denied is just how central the Agua Dulce Women’s Club is to the town’s needs.

“I was drawn to their community-based programs for the children,” Johnson said, “having the clubhouse available for local organizations to meet and a place to meet like-minded women who wanted to give service to the community.”

She has been mostly involved in the club’s programs for youth, such as free movie nights and an annual haunted house at Halloween.

The Women’s Club awards scholarships and collects food for the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry. But the group has some needs of its own – namely, a new building. 

“It needs to be brought up-to-date badly,” Chipperfield said. “I was president during the ‘80s and it needed updating then.”

There’s been a plan in place to tear down the current building, which is a small structure on Agua Dulce Canyon Road.

“We’ve got the plans and it’s a matter of coming up with that money,” Johnson said. “We’re a small organization.”

Despite its lack of size and amenities, it’s where everything happens: 4-H events, the Civic Association, the Town Council meetings, a parade headquarters, etc.

“It’s the center of Agua Dulce, basically,” Chipperfield said.

But as a gathering place during disasters it leaves a lot to be desired.

“We need to have it as a disaster evacuation center where we’ll cook food and bring in porta potties,” Johnson said, pointing out the isolation Agua Dulce experienced during the ’94 earthquake. “There’s not a government building out here. We’re kind of on our own.”

The Town Council is seeking some assistance for the project from L.A. County Board of Supervisors member Kathryn Barger.

“When you look around at Malibu and poor Paradise, that kind of stuff can devastate a town,” Johnson said. “Our town will band together to make it work, but it’s hard without a central spot. My goal is to be able to continue our kids’ programs and activities, but also have the club be the community gathering spot that those charter members in 1948 intended it to be. We’ve band-aided the building until it needs surgery.”

To join the Agua Dulce Women’s Club, you only need to be 18 years old and pay dues, according to the bylaws. Then be prepared to serve, because the activities continue.

The next one on the calendar is December 15 … a visit from Santa, of course.

Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.

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