MISSION & HISTORY
The Service League of Hickory, NC assists those in the community who are in need and fosters interest among its members in the charitable, civic and cultural conditions of the Catawba County community. To achieve these goals the Service League cooperates with other non-profit organizations making efficient use of its members as volunteers and improving the community through charity, public service and education.
History of the Service League of Hickory, NC, Inc.
Since 1937 the Service League of Hickory, North Carolina, Inc. has made aiding those in need the heart of its operations. The ten charter members who launched the club on October 18, 1937, chose worthy projects for their first endeavors: assisting the Red Cross, providing milk for underprivileged children, and aiding the County Welfare Department with case work. To finance these projects, members held a Grand Charity Ball in 1938, clerked in local department stores (collecting a percentage of sales), and in 1941, presented a musical comedy, "Dream of a Clown."
Needs increased during the years of World War II; the League responded with Bundles for Britain, a Civil Defense control center, bond and scrap metal drives, and continued support for the Red Cross and Salvation Army. During the 1944 polio epidemic, Service Leaguers mobilized to support the "Miracle of Hickory" with a variety of services, including washing dishes, transporting victims, and aiding in physiotherapy.
A major ongoing project, the Thrift Shop, was begun in 1948. Fifteen years later, the Hickory Antiques Fair was initiated and was an annual fundraiser in the Unifour area for forty-two years, ending in 2004. The League's highly successful cookbook, Market to Market, debuted in 1983, followed by a second cookbook, Taste without Waist, in 1993. The range of minor projects is equal to the creative talents of the members: plays, bazaars, bridge benefits, fashion shows, Parade of Homes tour, cooking schools, an opera, the gala inauguration of Valley Hills Mall, along with sales of baked goods, Christmas trees, and box suppers. With funds raised through these many projects, the League has given several special gifts to the community: STARLAB to the Science Center, a grand piano to the Arts Center, and playground equipment to Glenn Hilton Park, and contributions to the campaigns for the Catawba County Council for the Arts and Sciences, the Hickory Foundation YMCA, CCM, DSS Child Advocacy Center, and Family Care Center.
The list of community outreach is equally impressive: The Community Ridge Day Care Center (1952), Family Guidance (1959), Creative Museum for Youth later renamed Catawba Science Center (1975), Opportunity School, "Teen Room" at the Foundation Center, aid for families in crisis, volunteers for Special Olympics, the Guidance Department at Hickory High School, art enrichment, American Field Service, and the "I'm Special" series for area schools. More recent projects have included furnishing apartments for Family Care Center, supporting High Hope, and the Cooperative Christian Ministry, working with the Adolescent and Children in Treatment (ACT) school, volunteering with Hospitality House, and assisting the Council on Adolescents.
Since 1954, the Service League has helped over 200 area students achieve their college education goals through annual scholarships, grants, and merit awards. In 1989, the Scholarship Endowment Fund was established. This fund has grown over the years through contributions given as memorials and honorariums. With the addition of a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Thrift Shop property in 2013, it is now able to generate interest income sufficient to fund 6 SEF scholars.
The Glenn C. Hilton Endowment Fund was established in 1997 in memory of Glenn C. Hilton, Jr., by friends and business associates. This fund has also grown over the years through memorials and honorariums. With the addition of another, smaller, portion of the proceeds from the Thrift Shop property sale, this fund is currently large enough to support two (2) Glenn Hilton scholars.
In December 2015, The Service League was notified of being named as a beneficiary of the Beulah Mae Jones Mitchell Charitable Unitrust. After receipt of this generous gift, a Scholarship Fund was established in 2016 in her memory – The Beulah Mae Jones Mitchell Endowment Fund. This fund will support two (2) Mitchell scholars. Mrs. Mitchell was a league member for over 30 years and was a Diamond Member Emeritus.
Through the years, the Service League's strong involvement in our community has been recognized and honored. From 330 nominations, the League received one of the WSOC-TV "Nine Who Care" Awards for Outstanding Service in September of 1988 and the Outstanding Philanthropic Civic Organization Award given by NW North Carolina Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2001. Other recognitions include: the Governor's Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service (1988), letters and plaques of appreciation from: Hospice, Special Olympics, Celebrate the Family, Catawba Science Center, Hickory Community Relations Council, Catawba County Mental Health, Hickory City Schools, and the March of Dimes. The Service League continues to have representation on various community boards and commissions.
In November of 1997, the Service League of Hickory celebrated its sixtieth birthday. In the same year, members voted to purchase property for relocation and expansion of our fifty-year-old Thrift Shop business. The new Service League Thrift Shop opened in its new location on Highway 321 in the summer of 1998.
In November of 2006, the League debuted its newest fundraising effort, "Kitchens and More," a tour of kitchens in the Hickory area. This fundraiser, developed to take the place of the previous Antiques Fair, will continue the League's dedication to service to the Catawba Valley community.
In 2009 the Service League of Hickory started the Backpack Program for the Hickory City Elementary Schools. We currently partner with Catawba County (DSS) Backpack Program for this very important project providing nutritious food for children who would have nothing to eat over weekends and holidays.
In 2012, the Service League of Hickory celebrated its 75th year of community service. To commemorate this milestone, we revised and reprinted our successful cookbook, Market to Market. Market to Market & More contains the time-honored recipes plus over 100 new recipes.
In 2013 we closed our Thrift Shop and sold the property. The proceeds from this sale will enable our Scholarship Fund not only to be fully self-sustained but also increase the number of scholars. Additionally, we established a Service League Endowment Fund whose interest income will fund our budget for future projects.
In 2016 we revived the Hickory Antiques Fair. Our annual event for several years was held at the newly renovated Moretz Mills. In 2019 the Fair moved to Lake Hickory Country Club. The net proceeds from this event are returned to our community in the spirit of our mission.
The Service League operates out of a restored home at 506 Third Avenue, NW, which was partially financed through funds from the City of Hickory. It is here where we meet and work to continue our mission of Charity, Public Service and Education.
1973—Did you know that the Catawba Science Center began as the Creative Museum for Youth in 1973? This Service League project began in the Cilley house on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 4th Street NW in Hickory.
Source: Hickory Daily Record, July 25, 1973. Photo by Chuck Felts.
1977—Governor Hunt helps the Service League open the Community Ridge Day Care Center.
Source: Hickory Daily Record, September 14, 1977. Record photo by Bob Lupinek.
1978—Valley Hills Mall opened on August 14, 1978, with a gala benefit planned by the Service League. The event featured New York designers Charlotte Ford and Bill Blass. The 2000 attendees danced to the music of Peter Duchin and his orchestra.
Source: Hickory Daily Record, September 15, 1978.
1983—Market to Market, a cookbook produced by the Service League, became a reality in September of 1983. 10,000 copies were published at that time. People pictured in the photo are Helen Brooks, Carolyn Moretz, Dorothy Menzies, Anne Mitchell, Nancy Matheson.
Source: Hickory Daily Record, September 23, 1983.
1986—The Service League provided the Catawba Valley Science Center with the Starlab, purchased from proceeds from the sale of its cookbook Market to Market. Starlab is a forerunner of the Millholland Planetarium!
Source: Hickory Daily Record, January 18, 1986.
1986—Service League president Sylvia Kercher and Hickory mayor Bill McDonald officiate for the ribbon-cutting at the League house. (Left to right) Barbara Williams, Elaine Young, Ms. Brooks, Ms. Hilton, Councilman Neill Clark, City Manager B. Gary McGee, and Councilman Glenn Hilton Jr. look on.
Hickory Daily Record, April 15, 1986. Photo by Kim Simon.
1987—The Service League celebrated its 50th Anniversary on October 18, 1987, at the Arts Center of Catawba Valley. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of a concert grand piano to the Arts Center.
Source: Hickory News, October 22, 1987.
1988—WSOC-TV of Charlotte recognized the Service League with its "Nine Who Care" award and televised the presentation September 18, 1988. This award noted the following contributions the League has made to the community: the founding of the Community Ridge Day Care Center and the Family Guidance Center, the volunteering of time to the Catawba County Mental Health Center, the establishment of the Creative Museum for Youth (which eventually became part of the Catawba Science Center), and the giving of annual college scholarships.
1990—The Service League's Antiques Fair, held at the Hickory Foundation Center, provided attendees the opportunity to view and purchase antiques from dealers from throughout the Southeast. A special feature of the fair was always the homemade soups, sandwiches, and desserts provided by League members. C. O. Miller (director of the Foundation Center and honorary member of the League) and his wife Carolyn were instrumental in the many successful years of the Antiques Fair.
1993—The Service League offered its second cookbook, Taste Without Waist, a collection of recipes low in fat but high in flavor. Pictured here are Marty Cotton, Becky Simpson, and Donna Tripp.
Source: Hickory News, October 7, 1993.
1998—The League celebrated the Grand Opening of their new Thrift Shop location on August 11, 1998, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This event marked 50 years of service that the Thrift Shop has had in the community.
2006—Barbara Williams, Lynn Johnson, and Suzanne Hambrick, chair of the first Kitchens & More… tour in November 2006. Since its inception, Kitchens & More… has been the League's primary fundraising activity—and it offers the public an opportunity to view some of Hickory's finest homes while tasting treats prepared by the areas best chefs.