Local woman’s clubs to have holiday presence next four Saturdays in lobby of Grand Theater

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On behalf of the Woman’s Club of Steubenville, Iris Craig, left, club president, presented a check for $500 to Historic Fort Steuben, which was accepted by Jerry Barilla, board president, and Judy Bratten, the fort’s executive director. — Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The OFWC/Woman’s Club of Steubenville will be getting into the holiday spirit this weekend, kicking off what will be a special presence in conjunction with the Steubenville Nutcracker Village and Advent Market presented by Trinity Health System.

Only instead of being at Historic Fort Steuben where more than 100 nutcrackers will be on display now through Jan. 8, club members will spend the next four Saturdays — tomorrow; Dec. 3; Dec. 10; and Dec. 17 — in the refurbished lobby of the Grand Theater located at 121 S. Fourth St., Steubenville.

Club representatives will be there on those Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., club President Iris Craig announced at the organization’s Nov. 7 luncheon and business meeting at the Steubenville Country Club.

And with them will be representatives of the Wintersville Woman’s Club and the Woman’s Club of Mingo Junction — each of them selling special items to visitors who stop by for a visit in support of the clubs, interested to learn more about them and curious as well to see how the Grand Theater lobby looks since it’s been restored and has become available for use.

Collectively, the clubs will be selling treat bags, baked goods and crafts and have drawings for baskets and Christmas wreaths.  All proceeds from what the Steubenville club sells will benefit the Neighborhood House, Craig said.

According to Craig, it’s fitting for the local woman’s clubs to join forces and have a presence together for this special community event in a show of club unity.

For the second year, the Woman’s Club of Steubenville has its nutcracker as part of the display — Capt. Matthew in honor of Gold Star Mothers.

Craig’s announcement of this presence at the Grand Theater came on the heels of a program presented by Mark Nelson, president of the Steubenville Revitalization Group and local business owner of Nelson Fine Art and Gifts, located in the old Lincoln School building.

Introduced by program chair Eileen Krupinski, Nelson explained that he moved to the area with his parents and siblings during the 1980s, his father assuming a job with the Franciscan University of Steubenville as its groundskeeper. They came here, he said, after having heard about Steubenville through speeches by the Rev. Michael Scanlon, then its president, inspired because of the Catholic community and that it was a good place to raise a family, he said.

Nelson graduated from Catholic Central and started classes at Franciscan but dropped out to be a missionary, following in his parents’ footsteps. He met his wife, Gretchen, and the two completed missionary work, married and with $200 to their name started their business.

“I don’t recommend that to anyone,” he said with a chuckle.

“We’re the largest Catholic gift manufacturing company in the United States,” Nelson said he believes the family business that includes Catholic to the Max has grown to be. The small business employs 30 to 35 people, manufactures 70,00 items and has been the main manufacturer for the last two or three papal visits. The couple’s eldest daughter, one of their nine children, manages the graphics department.

The Nelsons are poised to have three businesses downtown on Fourth Street, a year-round Christmas shop in what formerly was Anna Kay’s and next to it the Steubenville Popcorn Co. and a coffee shop where they’ll do their own roasting.

The family lives on a 130-acre farm in the Coal Hill area where they make their own maple syrup to the tune of 100 to 150 gallons a year, he said.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing — because of the kids,” Nelson told the club members, noting that purchasing the former Lincoln School building for conversion into their manufacturing site brought him from anonymity he said he had enjoyed to involvement in making Steubenville a better place.

He became involved in the Steubenville Revitalization Group and attended Steubenville City Council meetings, ultimately embracing a “Love Where You Live, Steubenville” school of thought.

A Facebook page to that end touts positive things going on, including the Steubenville Nutcracker Village and Advent Market that Nelson and his family have been involved in.

An offshoot of the Facebook page will be a coffee table book drawing on posts.

“One of the things we saw from a revitalization angle (after last year’s nutcracker display) we overcame  every stigma that we ever dealt with in the downtown — no parking, the dark, the criminal element. Instead we heard positive responses, most frequently, ‘I can’t believe I’m in Steubenville,’” he said.

Nelson identified what he sees as the three “strongest jewels for revitalization” as being Historic Fort Steuben; the restoration of the Grand Theater; and development of trails in the city.

The November meeting also was occasion for welcoming a new member to the club — Kate Sedgmer, who is the executive director of the United Way of Jefferson County.

Guests on hand included Judy Bratten, executive director of Historic Fort Steuben, and Jerry Barilla, board president, who were presented a $500 donation from the club.

Krupinski and Jane Agresta served as hostesses.

Reports were given by Judy Brancazio, recording secretary, and Roxanne Matysiak, treasurer. Eleanor Weiss, rules and bylaws committee chair, announced a proposed change in the bylaws, given the club no longer holds meetings in January and February. The change involves dues payment by a December deadline instead of a February one. A second reading and vote will be conducted at the club’s next meeting.

It will be held at noon Dec. 5 at the Steubenville Country Club with Donna Keagler and Kimberly Hahn serving as hostesses and greeters. The program will involve musical selections by students from the Franciscan University of Steubenville under the direction of George Melhorn, music professor. Club members were reminded to bring their boy and girl teen stockings and/or gift bags filled with toiletry items and other gifts. They will be presented to the Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director of Urban Mission Ministries, for distribution before Christmas.

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