Acorn Club to stop publishing phone book

By Lynn R. Parks

The Acorn Club in Seaford will no longer publish a Seaford-Blades telephone book, something that it has been doing for six decades. Members of the club's phone book committee said that the book no longer generates enough income to make its production worthwhile.

Over the last 10 years, the number of advertisements in the book has plummeted, from 700 to 300. In 2002, the book was 160 pages long. Last year's edition, published in the fall, has just 104 pages.

Individual contributions are also down, said committee member Norma Lee Temple. This year, she said, not quite 400 households that received the book sent in money to help pay for it. The club publishes 10,500 books every year.

"These are trends that we expect will continue," said committee member Teresa Blades. As people opt to have cell phones instead of land lines, and as the Internet more and more becomes the place that people turn to for information, phone books are increasingly becoming unnecessary.

Blades said that the decision to stop putting out the phone books was not an easy one. "This is something that has been a part of our club for 64 years," she said. "The meeting where the membership voted to stop the books was a very emotional one."

"When I think about all the people who worked on that book, I feel such a loss," added committee member Sue Ockels. "Do you know how many little ladies have gotten in their cars and gone from business to business, selling ads, picking up ads and taking them back for proof-reading? There are a lot of ladies from this town who have done that."

The club, which was founded in 1902 and which is part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, started putting out Seaford-area phone books in 1948. At that time, members had to comb through larger telephone books, looking for numbers that started with the 629 Seaford code.

"It was painstaking work," said Blades, who remembers searching for Seaford entries and using her driver's license to keep track of the names and numbers she was reading.

Members also used to go house to house in town to deliver the books. Phone books for families who lived out of town were put in envelopes, which then had to be labeled.

"It was a big day when we got the books back and had to stuff envelopes," Ockels said.

"All of the members would turn out to help," added committee member Louise Ellis.

Now, the club purchases the listings from Verizon. Phone books have mailing information printed on their back covers and no longer require envelopes.

But it's still a big job putting the book together and getting them to the post office for mailing, said Blades. Committee members worked nearly year-round on the project, taking only December off, Temple added.

For years, covers on the books featured pen and ink drawings by club member Mildred Fager, who died in 2004. Art work by Franklin "Woody" Woodruff, who died in January, was also used for covers.

Covers on the last two phone books have featured pictures by Seaford photographer Gene Bleile.

Committee members were unwilling to say how much money the club has made from the phone books. But projects in the Seaford area that the club has supported have been numerous.

Every year, the club awards a scholarship to a senior at Seaford High School. The club has given money to the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club (for its arts and crafts room) and to the Seaford Historical Society (for the restoration of the library at the Ross Mansion and to pay for the clock in front of the Seaford Museum). It continues to support the library, which it founded in 1902, and bought the candle-shaped Christmas lights that still decorate areas of town during the holidays.

The club also started and still supports the Beary Good Project, through which children who are facing surgery at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital get teddy bears. "That's one of the little things that we do that nobody knows about – except for the parents whose children are comforted by the teddy bears," said Blades.

Committee members do not know what project, or projects, will replace the phone book fundraiser. "We don't have a clue," said Ockels. "Having to search for fundraising projects is foreign to us."

"We were always very fortunate to have the phone book," added Blades.

But despite the uncertain future, members are sure that the Acorn Club, no matter how it raises its money, will forge on. "There's a possibility that we can't do as much for the community as we have done in the past," Temple said. "We will just have to see."

For your information
Copies of the 2014-2015 telephone directory for the Seaford, Blades and vicinity are still available at Fantasy Beauty Salon, 224 High St., Seaford. Cost is $5.

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