Women’s Breakfast Group set to celebrate 20 years in 2024

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The Granby Women’s Breakfast Program Committee plans events to celebrate their 20th year. Along left side, Pat Olechna, Marilyn Nystrom and Joan Ducharme. Along right side, Corinne Dickerson, Jennifer Jalbert. Absent committee member, Pat Dryden. Photo by Joan Ducharme

Brought together by a shared love for Granby, the Women’s Breakfast Group will celebrate 20 years in 2024. Every month from September to June the women gather to enjoy a breakfast cooked by volunteers, to share conversation and to enjoy a program of music or presentations. The program, which costs $5 to attend, welcomes women of all age groups.

On April 5, the group came together to share pancakes and breakfast sausage and hear Deb Beal of West Granby speak on her experience with backyard beekeeping. The event was well attended, with about 40 women present ranging from 50 to 90 years old.

Beal brought her beekeeping equipment and spoke for about 40-50 minutes with demonstrations of how to practice beekeeping. Beal explained how beekeeping is a rewarding process that not only produces a sweet, fresh product but provides the beekeeper with a quiet, peaceful hobby. Outside of beekeeping, Beal is a seasoned winemaker who has fermented backyard ingredients such as fruits and flowers, including dandelions, wild fox grapes, peaches, and strawberries, to make country wine, and is also a crafter who co-founded the Holiday Market at Holcomb Farm. Beal’s passion for homemade and homegrown products was inspiring, inviting the captivated audience to ask a multitude of good questions.

Joan Ducharme, one of the founding members of the Granby Women’s Breakfast, explained why the program has been so successful: “You’ll find that living in the small town of Granby there are a tremendous number of very talented and interesting people whom we have brought in [as speakers].” The program’s tendency to tap people from the local area to present at breakfast has nurtured a sense of community and friendship. Indeed, the 2022-23 season of the breakfast has featured local residents with fascinating life stories. In October 2022, Major Melinda Rizer Gould of West Granby, a retired female helicopter pilot, spoke on her experiences as a woman rising through the ranks and becoming a pilot in a presentation that attendees found captivating.

Since 2004, the breakfast has hosted speakers on topics from safari photography to reiki healing to doll house miniatures. Marking 20 years of breakfasts, this year the program plans to host a fashion show presented by Chico’s of Canton (June 2023), a formal English tea complete with big hats, and a cooking demonstration by Chef Christopher Prosperi of Metro Bis restaurant in Simsbury. The organizing committee also plans to celebrate with giveaways for breakfast participants and special “bring a friend” incentives.

Two founding members, Ducharme of Granby and Corinne Dickerson of East Granby, shared how they were motivated to start the breakfast. The founders thought, “If the men were having a breakfast, why shouldn’t the women have a breakfast?” From there, the women’s breakfast swelled to a regular attendance of 80-100 people before the COVID-19 pandemic. For Ducharme, motivation to organize the breakfasts comes from an appreciation for how special this town and its residents are. “I love this town,” she professed, “The quality of life here is so special.” They note that surrounding towns do not have programs like the Granby Women’s Breakfast.

On May 3, the group will welcome Christine Pittsley, special projects director of the Connecticut State Library, to speak on Harry Townsend. An expert on World War I, Pittsley has held several award-winning programs and is heralded a leading figure in the nation’s efforts to memorialize World War I.

Townsend was an artist who captured the realities of World War I in his illustrations while serving as a Captain in the Engineering Corps. In France Townsend became one of eight official combat artists with the American Expeditionary Forces. His detailed sketches and paintings of war machines, planes and soldiers reveal the cruelty of war and the bravery of those who served. Much of his combat art is in the Smithsonian.

After the war, Townsend moved to Connecticut and opened a studio in Norwalk, where he worked for the rest of his life. During this time he painted murals in schools and government buildings and illustrated local scenery and people. Most notably he painted Edith Stoehr of Wethersfield, who became the first female game warden in the country. The Granby Women’s Breakfast program invites all women to come, share breakfast and hear a presentation on this fascinating historical figure. Breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m. and Pittsley will present from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Granby Senior and Youth Services Center.