Oakleaf Club History 1947-Present
The Navy Medical Officer Corps Officers’ Wives Club of Washington, D.C. began at a luncheon on May 29, 1947. Seventy-five Navy doctors’ wives gathered at the Officers’ Club, Navy Gun Factory, under the initial acting chairperson, Mrs. C. R. Wilcox. The first designated Club treasurer, Mrs. F. P. Krenz, collected a twenty-five cent membership fee from joining members. By August the Club became a permanent organization. The first slate of officers was elected with Mrs. P. M. Albright as President. In November, Mrs. Bartholomew Hogan presented the constitution and by-laws to the members, and with their approval, the Navy Medical Corps Officers’ Wives Club was established.
The purposes of the Club would be both social and benevolent and through its activities and charitable projects, develop understanding and friendship among its members. The first benevolence project undertaken by the Club was the collection of Christmas toys for Navy Relief. Charitable knitting and sewing began in February of 1948. The first major fund-raising event by the Club was the sponsoring of a fashion show at the Shoreham Hotel’s Blue Room in collaboration with Dental and Medical Service Corps Officers’ Wives Clubs. A spring dinner dance was the first major social activity undertaken. Club meetings were held in the Gun Factory, Army-Navy Clubs and local hotels. In 1950, The Commissioned Officers’ Club was opened at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC). It became the Oakleaf Club’s permanent place for their meetings, formal teas and lunches until its closure in 1997. Meetings are now held at the homes of the Navy Surgeon General and board members.
During the early years, many sponsored fashion shows assisted in raising funds for benevolent activities. In 1950, President Mrs. R. M. Gillett and her board elected to sponsor a gala benefit event for the Children’s hospital. The gala generated almost $500 for the hospital. The following year, a major benefit fashion show was held at the NNMC gym. The grand Washington, D.C. Garfinkel’s 8 41 Department Store provided the fashions for almost 500 guests including the First Lady, Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1994, major and exciting changes were made to the Constitution, By-Laws and Standing Rules of the Club. Membership was opened to all active duty and retired medical, dental, nurse and medical service corps officers and their spouses who are and were attached to the Naval Medical Department (NMD) and residing in the greater Washington, DC, area. As part of the new membership, the Club was now fortunate to welcome the first male member on its board. In response to the changes in the Constitution, the Club’s name was changed to the Oakleaf Club of the Greater Washington, D.C. area.
In 2002, the Club again undertook a major benevolent project in memory of Mary Jane Sanford, wife of retired RADM Frederic G. Sanford, who was known for her commitment and great support of wives’ club activities at every assigned duty station. Over $10,000 was contributed in her name. The founding project committee members included RADM Frederic Sanford, Janine Eisold, Camille Taft and Judy Cassells. The Mary Jane Sanford (MJS) Fund would serve as a foundational staple in the Club’s benevolent efforts and causes for decades to come.
In 2004 The Mary Jane Sanford Fund helped establish the Wounded Marine and Sailor Fund to support the special needs of military men and women returning from war zones, particularly Iraq, and the MJS Fund forged an enduring partnership with the Hematology-Oncology Clinic and the Breast Care Center National Naval Medical Center’s Annual Breast Cancer Art Show and Artist Receptions (now known as the Healing Arts Exhibit).
In September of 2008, the Club opened the Purple Acorn Gift Shop (PAGS) at the National Naval Medical Center. Under the two-year presidency of Sharon Jankosky, many members of the Oakleaf Club contributed numerous hours of volunteer time to assist in the successful implementation and running of PAGS.
The historic 2011 consolidation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) was a time of great change for the Club as well. The consolidation led to Club uncertainties including continued physical space for PAGS and the continued availability of gift shop volunteers. The Club transformed PAGS into an online Oakleaf gift store, along with an independent web site, www.oakleafdc.org. Jane Gilhooly guided the Club during these transformative years and led many key developments.
Under the chairmanship of Jennifer Minter and Kameha Bell, fundraising activities generated over $8,000 for benevolence disbursement and over $7,000 for the Wounded Marine and Sailor Fund. This allowed them to initiate a Staff Wish List Program, where staff submit requests for items that improve the patient experience or contribute to morale. The Staff Wish List Program continued to grow and is now a hallmark activity of The Club at WRNMMC, providing on average $12,000 annual in morale boosting support.
After the historic consolidation, the Club’s Bylaws and Standing Rules were updated once again to expand membership to all services in the Medical Health Services. This allowed the Club to welcome a wider community of members and to serve the greater combined community of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the Naval Support Activity Bethesda.
In 2015, the Club welcomed its first President from the Army spouse community, Michelle DuMontier.
Presently, the Club has a strong membership of over 130 individuals. Benevolence activities, such as the Staff Wish List Program, Mary Jane Sanford Fun, Fisher House Fund, Books 4 Kids, Pediatric Stuffed Animal Program and many more successful projects are going strong. Social functions are also still playing a large role within the club, including monthly dinners, book club, special outings and Tree House (play group for young children) give members a chance to connect and socialize with one another.