What is Women of Today?
We are a non-profit volunteer organization that provides support for our local community, as well as provides leadership training and personal growth opportunities for our members.
Check out our full brochure.
What does Women of Today do in Aitkin?
We are involved in a number of projects and events in the Aitkin community. The profits of these projects benefit many local organizations, such as Kinship, AADA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Food Shelf, Aitkin Public Schools, and Adopt-a-Highway, among many others. We also host social events for our members to foster lifelong friendships and grow from unique attributes each member brings to our group. Whether working on a community project or enjoying each other’s company, we are always having lots of fun.
Who can join Women of Today?
Any person at least 18 years of age may be a member of Aitkin Women of Today. Whether you want to give back to your community; develop your individual talents in speaking, writing and other areas; or make great new friends, Women of Today has something for you - and you'll bring something unique to the organization! New voices and new ideas are always welcome.
On October 5, 1955, fifteen enthusiastic Jaycee wives gathered in Brainerd for an informal meeting to try to organize a Mrs. Jaycees group in Aitkin. To have a Mrs. Jaycees chapter in the community, there first had to be a Jaycee organization and Mrs. Jaycees had to be the wives of Jaycees. Margaret (Muggs) Nelson was nominated temporary chairman and Judy Behrens temporary secretary. A committee volunteered to write a constitution. They met again a month later and things immediately began to happen. A Board of Directors was appointed, nominating committee, program chairman and membership chairman. Dues were established at $2.50 per year. The basement of the First National Bank was designated as the meeting place with every other meeting being a dinner meeting. Over the years that changed from one dinner meeting and one pot luck meeting per year with regular monthly meetings in the homes of members, to two potluck meetings with regular monthly meetings at community places. A date was set to meet with the extension chairman and work began. The sole purpose of this group of young ladies was to assist their Jaycee husbands, with their first project helping at a Halloween party and then their fishing contest. Before long, the Mrs. Jaycees started fund raising, starting with a chicken dinner and a fashion show.
April 21, 1956 was the temporary date set for charter night dinner. In February 1957, the first election of officers was held. Muggs Nelson was elected president. The Articles of Incorporation were filed at the Courthouse. In 1957, swings were purchased for the city park, and in the following years, additional playground equipment was provided by the Mrs. Jaycees organization. In 1957 prayer leaflets were furnished to the hospital up through 1977.
In 1960, Norma Nummela was elected Regional Vice President, being the first women from Aitkin to ever run for this office. Fourteen year later, in 1974, Elaine Hill held this office. In 1973, Penny Fannemal placed third in the Regional “Tip for Talks” competition. In 1960, the Aitkin Chapter helped Brainerd Jaycee wives organize a chapter. In 1996, the process started to extend a chapter to Emily/Crosby/Deerwood are with C-I Women of Today chartering in July of 1998. In January 2001, steps began to extend a chapter to the McGregor area.
Open membership was passed in 1975, allowing any women meeting the age requirement to become a member. Our president was Gwen Dickey. In May of 1979, our named changed to Jaycee Women. Our president that year was Terry Stein. Affiliation became the big issue in 1982 and 1983. The U.S. Jaycees said there had to be a Jaycee chapter in order to have a Jaycee Woman chapter in the community. Jeannie Thompson was president that year. The year 1984-85 had many challenges and changes. The Supreme Court ruled that women must be granted full membership in the Jaycees. In March, a special mall vote was taken of all the members in Minnesota and we voted to disaffiliate from the Jaycees.
On July 1, 1985, we became the Minnesota Women of Today, with 184 chapters and 3,670 members. Jayne Anderson was our chapter president.
In 1988-89, Bonnie O’Neil was our chapter’s first member to serve as the Minnesota Women of Today State President.
In 1999-2000, three members served on the state level: Jodie Johnson as Membership Vice President, Lynn (Duffy) Jacobs as Parliamentairan, and Cathy Olson as District Director.
In 2000-2001, Jodie Johnson served as our second chapter member to serve as Minnesota Women of Today State President, and just happens to be the sister-in-law to Bonnie O’Neil. Lynne (Duffy) Jacobs served as Administrative Vice Preident and Cathy Olson was Presidential Assistant.
In 2001-2002, we made history in our chapter when Lynne (Duffy) Jacobs was voted as Minnesota Women of Today State President. This was the first time in our organization that a chapter had back to back State Presidents. That year Jodie Johnson served as Chairman of the board, Cathy Olson served as State Program Manager for March of Dimes, and Jen Kinzer was Presidential Assistant.
Jen Kinzer went on to serve the Minnesota Women of Today in many different positions on the state level for many years. In 2009, Jen become the fourth member of our chapter to serve as the Minnesota Women of Today State President. Heidi Westerlund was her Presidential Assistant.
Many others have served on the district level of the organization as District Director, officers, or District Program Managers, and on the state level as State Program Managers and state committees.
Our chapter has had several Key Women in the Minnesota Women of Today. The Key Woman award is the most prestigious honor given within the Minnesota Women of Today. Recipients of this award from the Aitkin Chapter are Bonnie O’Neil, Jodie Johnson, Lynne (Duffy) Jacobs, Jen Kinzer, Roxy Appel-Wigton, and Leslie Goble. Serving as U.W. Women of Today Ambassadors are Bonnie O’Neil (received in 1992-93), Jodie Johnson (2002-03), Lynne (Duffy) Jacobs (2003-04), and Jen Kinzer (2011-12).
The chapter has worked on many projects in the Aitkin community, such as queen pageants which include Miss Aitkin Pageant (1962-65), 4th of July queen (1966), centennial queen (1971), and captain and queen coronation for the Riverboat Heritage Days. In 1969, the chapter ran the dunk tank at the fair for the first time (it started as a Jaycees project), and in 1974 bought a dunk tank and continued that project for several years. Fair bingo was another project started by the Jaycees and then became the Aitkin Women of Today project up until 2001. Another long term project has been the school pictures. We organize and coordinate school pictures for the Aitkin Schools and create the Rippleside Elementary Memory Books that the school children can purchase for a yearbook keepsake. In 1981, we started an annual Bike-a-thon which we ran through 2000, and then started up for a few years again in 2006. In 1997, we began Coats for Kids and we awarded our first Outstanding Young Adult Scholarship. 1998 saw the success of our Easter Carnival and brought the Easter Bunny to Aitkin. We also held the first Safety Town that year, which teaches basic safety to children 4-7 years old. In 1999, our first Pumpkin Patch was held with a not-so-haunted house, bake sale, craft sale, and kids games. Also in 199, we started Santa’s Workshop and Children’s Bazaar, which ran through 2012, that made gifts available for children to purchase for the families for the holidays.
For the 20th anniversary, it was written that we “have tried many ways to make a few dollars. Some projects have been successful for 20 years and some have not. There’s the good old standby of bake sales, bazaars, book sales, serving various dinners, to selling raffle tickets, cookbooks, candles, honey and etc.” The times haven’t changed all that much. Currently our most important fundraising efforts are the School Pictures and Pumpkin Patch. Also helping our community are events such as the Kiddie Parade, Coats for Kids, Kid’s Week, Safety Town, and to many others to mention them all.
In February 1997, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with past chapter presidents and state presidents in attendance. Along with work we have done and the time we have given, there have been fun activities too. The chapter holds many socials that help us to get to know each other better, such as the family campout which started in 1993, Ladies Nights Out, Mini-golfing, and our Installation Banquet. Other activities over the years are working in program areas such as Juvenile Diabetes, Kidney Disease, People with Developmental Challenges, Lupus, St. Jude’s Children Hospital, Multiple Sclerosis, March o Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy, Breast Cancer Awareness, and many others. They have tough us more about ourselves and the world around us.
In 2006 we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a chapter with a luncheon held at First Lutheran Church in Aitkin with many past chapter presidents and members attending. A lot of memories were shared on that day. It was learned that we have always had the same constant goal: to serve our community and nation.
Our creed states “We believe that through us great lessons can be learned, worthy deeds performed, and a hand of fellowship extended to millions of women everywhere. May we leave the world a better place because we lived and served within in it.” Throughout the years, the Aitkin chapter has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and volunteered countless hours to service our community. We truly stand behind our creed. We look back on the past with pride and we look forward to the future of Aitkin Women of Today.