75 years a Daughter

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Chatham’s Joan Clement recently received an Ontario Volunteer Award. Being a founding member of the Captain Garnet Brackin chapter of the IODE and a member of the service club for more than seven decades will do that.

There is being dedicated and then there is being Joan Clement dedicated.

The Chatham woman recently received an Ontario Volunteer Award, a fitting tribute for a person who has for the past 75 years been heavily involved in the local IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire), specifically the Captain Garnet Brackin chapter of the IODE.

Clement was a founding member, actually, and has held pretty much every possible position with the chapter.

The 89-year-old got involved with the junior IODE chapter back in 1946 at the young age of 14 while a student at Chatham Collegiate Institute.

“It was just after the war. What a great group,” Clement said. “There were about 25 of us in it. We did a lot of good work.”

Most of that work helped local schools and local students, something the IODE has maintained locally through the years.

But the fundraisers certainly look a lot different today than in the past.

Clement said there was a time she and others went on a shoe-shine fundraiser – walking down King Street and asking to shine men’s shoes.

“That was one of our first ventures – shoe-shine girls. We went up King Street and we had a little box. All the men in those days would wear nice shoes,” she said, adding the club members would shine shoes for a donation. “We’d never do that today. Times change.”

Many of us have experienced family or staff cookie exchanges for the holidays. It seems making five- or six-dozen cookies is a chore.

How about more than 83 dozen?

Clement said the chapter of the IODE used to have its members make 1,000 cookies each as part of a holiday fundraiser.

“Each girl had to make 1,000 cookies and they had to be homemade,” she recalled with a laugh. “We told our children they couldn’t eat one of the cookies or we’d disown them.”

Marianne Johnstone, current president of the Capt. Garnet Brackin IODE, said her aunt was part of the cookie program.

“There’d be cookies laid out all over the house cooling,” she said.

“You did what you did at the time. They were all young women,” she said of the founding members of the chapter. “When they did the cookies, they all had young kids at home, and it (the baking) was something they could do at home.”

Johnstone said Clement has never stopped being a member, and will soon celebrate her 90th birthday.

“She has been the president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, the standard bearer – she’s done everything,” Johnstone said.

That included starting the Geranium House Tour, which morphed into the Christmas House Tour, the most successful fundraiser by the chapter in recent years, but one that has been on the shelf since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IODE has managed to continue to raise funds despite the pandemic, and Johnstone and Clement credit Riverview Gaming Centre with helping make that happen through its bingos.

Clement said the chapter is down to about 10 members, but calls them “a great group of women.”

Clement said the group still meets on a monthly basis and she looks forward to the gatherings.

“It’s a great way to help your city and Canada. I still pay my dues. I’ve held every position. Now I’m just sort of coasting,” she said.

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