A Dubuque organization for girls began operations in a former nursing home 45 years ago this week.
Dubuque Girls’ Club opened in October 1975 in the castle-like building at 75 W. 17th St., the former home of both Lady of Lourdes Nursing Home and Dubuque Female College.
The club offered a variety of activities for girls and resided in a couple of Dubuque locations until a 1999 merger with the local Boys Club resulted in the creation of Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dubuque.
The consolidated club is located at 1299 Locust St.
Here is how the Telegraph Herald reported on the debut of the Dubuque Girls’ Club in its Oct. 12, 1975, edition.
COMMUNITY RALLIES TO SUPPORT DUBUQUE GIRLS’ CLUB
Good ideas sometimes take the long road to reality.
Beginning tomorrow, reality is at hand for Dubuque girls who want and need a place to go for sisterly companionship and recreation.
The Dubuque Girls’ Club opens tomorrow in the 40-room structure at 75 W. 17th St., thanks to the efforts of local citizens who saw the needs.
The building, which formerly housed the Lady of Lourdes Nursing Home, will be opened without fanfare tomorrow from 4 to 8 p.m. to girls ages 8 to 18.
“We’re not going to open with a flourish,” said Mary Thalhamer, 24, the club’s executive director. “We can’t handle that now because we’re still getting ourselves organized, but we welcome membership and new ideas. Our program is worthwhile, and we want the girls to have fun.”
Thirty-one girls had registered for membership as of Friday. Tomorrow also begins a two-year probationary period for the club’s affiliation with Girls’ Clubs of America.
The clubhouse admittedly is sparsely furnished due to a slim budget and little manpower, but for those who’ve worked on its reality, a certain victory is felt.
The community has talked for several years of the need for such a facility, but it wasn’t until March 1974 that the idea built up steam.
It happened when Dubuquer Rose Marie Montgomery called the KDTH Radio program, “Sound Off,” to speak out on the need for girls’ recreational facilities. The YWCA and schools do their part, she told listeners, but simply cannot accommodate all the girls who need an outlet.
Montgomery, now a club board member, was deluged with calls from others with similar sentiments. A planning group, Girls Are In Need (GAIN), emerged and made itself heard around the community. School and city officials were brought together to determine specific needs and outline goals.
A board, now numbering 15 members and chaired by the Rev. Marvin Bries, was formed, and the group gathered momentum throughout the year.
They applied for a $49,000 federal Community Development grant. They received $35,000, and it was enough to lease the West 17th Street building for $7,000 annually. It was also enough to hire a small staff, beginning with Thalhamer, a University of Dubuque graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education.