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Artistic Director Fred Chacon, left, and historian Susan Dunn, stand next to the history library modular that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda on Jan. 11, 2013.

ALAMEDA -- Once it was an Island institution of scores of white-gloved ladies enjoying luncheons and teas and doing good works. Since forming in 1896, the Adelphian Club has had a long history of service to the community.

Its once-very substantial membership now is down to 20 women, and membership has been closed. Things change. But what hasn't changed is the annual $3,000 gift the club gives to each of the Island's public elementary and middle schools for their music and arts programs.

In a 1993 fundraising cookbook is an excerpt of the club's constitution, which states its mission is to promote study among women, to aid worthy causes and to advance whatever tends to the best interests of the community.

Which is why, according to club President Marjorie Lanzit, in 2002, they gave $380,000 in proceeds from the sale of their 104-year-old building at Central Avenue and Walnut Street, to the schools. It is among other charitable efforts the club has contributed to, including Meals on Wheels.

"At one time, there were 14 schools, and we gave $1,000 each year, but we raised the amount to $3,000 because of economy and because there are fewer schools," she said.

The funds are administered by the East Bay Community Foundation. The principal is decreasing annually because the economy has so drastically reduced interest rates.

Dian Hale, interim principal for Lincoln Middle School, said she and her staff are very appreciative of the annual gift. In a thank-you letter to the club, she wrote: "Our art class students are able to participate in community events because of the generous donation. Without the continued donations from the Adelphian Club our music and art programs would not be able to serve approximately 600 students."

Other school leaders also sent letters of thanks to the club. Bay Farm Elementary's letter noted that the money made it possible this year to buy ukuleles for a sixth-grade band.

As for the club, Lanzit said, "I think we're going to last another four or five years."

She became a member in 1974. Today she is a youthful 86-year-old who has traveled extensively with her husband, Jerome. Both are Alameda natives.

"All my friends were joining the club," she said. "I enjoyed playing bridge and meeting people. We always had guest musicians and speakers and we had a receiving line and wore white gloves. Mostly the members were people who worked and this was a way to get to know members of the community."

In earlier years, the members prepared fundraising luncheons.

"I cooked chicken Kiev, molded beet salad and persimmon pudding with hot lemon sauce for over 100 people," Lanzit said. "We were workers in that club."

The club now meets once a month for lunch at Pier 29. Though there are 20 members, only 12 are able to get out to the lunches. One member, who is now 102, attended the lunches until last year.

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