Reading Club ends 130th year

Southwest Life

Ann Butler

Current Columnist


Phone Number: (970) 375-4584

Reading Club ends 130th year

Hostess Linda McCannell, center, enjoys a meal and laughter with fellow Reading Club of Durango members, Ann Norris, left, and Deb Barnes. The club celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2012 and has spent most of those years contributing to the community.

During most of its meeting year from September to May, the Reading Club of Durango is mostly business, managing the club’s philanthropic efforts, studying the theme of the year, recommending books and sharing new words. (And having great fun while doing it.)

But Dec. 13, members and associate members gathered at the home of Linda McCannell for their holiday luncheon, and the theme was all social – dissecting election results, sharing plans for the holidays and, oh yes, giving advice about great gift books for Christmas.

McCannell’s home is beautiful without Christmas decorations, but the gleaming lights and two trees really put it over the top. Last year, she created copper bookmarks stamped with various new words members have brought in during the last year as party favors, and this year, the favors were handpainted wooden bookmarks on a Christmas theme with the words.

She asked us all to use our words at least three times during the luncheon, because it’s been established that the triple repetition is how we solidify new words in our vocabulary. (It’s supposed to help you remember the names of new acquaintances, too, but you can’t prove that by me.)

Not so bad for some, but President Sandra Mapel got stuck with one of my tongue-twisters, Bildungsroman, which Webster’s defines as “a novel that deals with the maturation, and specifically the psychological development and moral education, of the principal character.” Try dropping that one in conversation. I think Catcher in the Rye might fall into the Bildungsroman category.

I, myself, was fortunate that some of my tablemates had breakfasted on oatmeal, because my word was avenaceous, which comes from the Latin for belonging to or resembling oats or the oat grasses. Another toughie.

No one can say we don’t come up with some doozies (originally associated with daisies, but now a standard of excellence derived from the Dusenberg automobile).

Now you will be starting the New Year with some new vocabulary of your own.

The club enjoyed a menu prepared by Scott Arbaugh, who feeds the students at St. Columba School by day and those who want to hire him to cater the rest of the time. He prepared a variety of quiches, a delicious green salad and a tray of sweets, including killer brownies and Rice Krispies treats (so way better than the commercial ones that taste like chemicals).

McCannell and Mapel, as co-hostesses, poured mimosas, champagne, wine and nonpotent potables, but club members and associates didn’t need anything to put them in high spirits.

Because the charter members of the club in 1882 were very civically minded, the club strives to continue the tradition. Since 1906, members have donated more than $300,000 to the Durango Public Library. At the luncheon, the recipient of the philanthropy was the Center of Southwest Studies, which preserves the club’s archives, but to add icing to the cake, members brought books to be given as Christmas gifts to children and teenagers at the Volunteers of America’s Community Shelter and Southwest Safehouse.


Celebrating the last birthdays of 2012 or the first of 2013 are Jeff Branson, Art Chase, Angie Halverstadt, Carol Halverstadt, Ted Carr, Gordon Cheesewright, Pati Sandhaus, Anna Cheesewright, Marj Martinson, Mary Ann Gregg, Elizabeth Helms, Barbara Lewis, Daniel McElwain, Shana Zink, Nick Jernigan and Kathryn Paul.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of La Plata County received a nice gift from AT&T for Christmas. When Bill Soards, president of AT&T Colorado was in town at a community luncheon Dec. 12 at the DoubleTree Hotel, he presented the check to BBBS Executive Director Tracy Cornutt.

“AT&T proudly supports Big Brothers Big Sisters in its efforts to help students who need an extra hand to succeed in their personal lives, which has a tremendous impact in their educational and future success,” Soards said.


In another holiday story – not Christmas, but with a sense of Christmas spirit – Hannah Nelson’s class at Animas Valley Elementary School recently received a nice note of thanks from an American Red Cross shelter in New York City.

I’ll let them tell you what they did:

“Dear American Red Cross: As we studied natural disasters in our second-grade classroom, we felt a lot of empathy for the kids who were not able to trick-or-treat this year due to Hurricane Sandy. We decided to donate all of our Halloween candy to the kids who were going through a hard time. Please accept this candy and distribute it however you see fit. Thanks for all the hard work you do to help people as they recover from natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.”

Thanks to Cindi Shank for the heads up, and to Nelson and the students for realizing that little kids can make a big difference in other’s lives during a time of despair.


Karen and Wayne Barger like to mark an important occasion by celebrating for a good cause. Seasons Rotisserie & Grill owners kept up the tradition Dec. 11, when they held their 18th anniversary party to benefit the Volunteers of America Community Shelter and Southwest Safehouse.

Guests pay $25, with all the proceeds going to VOA, and then chat and nosh their way through a selection of the chefs’ favorites plus new dishes created for the event. And since Season’s is also known for its wine cellar, there’s some great vino to be quaffed as well.

On the menu were an artisan cheese platter with Jenn Lyndes’ house-baked crackers and fresh fruit; sashimi-seared hamachi with house-cured kimchee; roast goose sliders with cranberry sauce; a salumi platter with imported and house-cured pork and pickled vegetables; Scott Thompson’s wood-fired pizzas with a wide variety of toppings; some killer ribs and a wonderful pâté. Lyndes also made an array of Christmas sweets, including Linzer drops, pizzelles, and lemon poppyseed and chocolate chip cookies.

The wine the Bargers were pouring included something for everyone – a brut rosé sparkling Piper Sonoma “Select Cuvée”; pinot grigio Baroncini delle Venezie 2008; chardonnay Concannon “Glen Ellen Reserve” 2010; red blend Columbia Crest “Two Vines Vineyard 10” 2008; and cabernet sauvignon Wilson Daniels 2009.

VOA received more than $3,700 from an event where all staff members had to do was show up and enjoy some great food.

The party was fun, of course, but the cause is so important, not just in the holiday season, but all year long. Sarada Leavenworth, the division director for the VOA, caught me up on what has happened at the shelter and safehouse this year.

At the shelter, for the period from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 77 children, 140 women and 267 men found a safe place to rebuild their lives for almost 7,500 nights all told. The shelter served 22,464 meals, answered 7,071 crisis, counseling and information/referral calls and gave 43 presentations to raise awareness about the issues of homelessness. The shelter averaged 25 people a night. Almost 310 volunteers donated more than 2,500 hours of their caring time and effort.

The nights of shelter provided was up by 11 percent over the previous year, and the number of meals was up by 10 percent. Keep in mind the total has increased steadily for the last four years in this recession.

At the safehouse, 90 women and 54 children found refuge with a total of 4,869 nights of shelter provided. After feeding their clients 14,607 nutritious meals, the safehouse also provided 229 sessions of counseling and support groups and more than 2,000 referrals to other services. Almost 215 volunteers gave more than 2,200 hours of their time and talents. Staff members gave 47 presentations to educate people about domestic violence, which happens at all socioeconomic levels.

In a frightening statistic, the number of nights of shelter increased by a whopping 56 percent.

In a heartening one, 89 percent of the women served did not return to the abusive relationships after leaving the shelter. Children’s well-being increased after staying in the safehouse, not only because of the relief of living free of violence, but because their nutritional, medical and dental needs were better met.

The shelter and the safehouse need to be open and available 365 days a year and serve three meals a day. And that means a steady need for funds. If you’d like to end the year on a note of generosity, send your tax-deductible contributions to Volunteers of America, P.O. Box 2107, Durango, CO 81302.

My personal belief is that everyone should have enough to eat and a safe place to live. VOA makes that happen for our most vulnerable neighbors.


Finishing the year with an anniversary celebration are Ricky and Melissa Cooksey, Earl and Karlaine Caudill, Bryan and Joyce Hondru, Bryan and Marcia Welker, Sean and Kimberly Darnall, Paul and Joyce Boyer, Dick and Jane Pearson, John and Pat Mikelson, Kenny and Shannon Bassett, Charlie Hakes and Lynn Partridge and John Powell and Linda Arndt.

Special greetings go to Bob and Judy Yearout, who celebrated their golden anniversary after 50 years together on Friday.


Happy New Year to all my readers. See you next year.


Here’s how to reach me:; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality.

Reading Club ends 130th year

Hostess Linda McCannell, center, enjoys a meal and laughter with fellow Reading Club of Durango members, Ann Norris, left, and Deb Barnes. The club celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2012 and has spent most of those years contributing to the community.
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