Woman's Exchange Celebrating 80th Year

SCARSDALE, N.Y. - The little shop at 33 Harwoood Court seems like it was made for Christmas. Chock full of handmade crafts, the shelves are bursting with red and white crocheted and hand-sewn items and festive decorations.

But the history of the Scarsdale Woman’s Exchange is anything but festive, according to President Susan Bonsignore of Edgemont, a volunteer there for about three decades.

“It’s our 80th birthday this year,” she said. “It’s the oldest establishment in the village – not the building, but the Exchange. It was started in 1931 during the Depression to help less fortunate women from neighboring villages and towns.”

Bonsignore said the idea was that women could make jams and jellies, knit and sewn items, and the Exchange would sell them and give the women the money.

“We’re still doing that today; that’s still our mission, to help women and some men across the country,” she said. “Items come in from all over, many from Westchester County. Most of the money goes to the people who create the items.”

The rest goes to charity. The Exchange recently formed an affiliation with My Sister’s Place, and organization that helps battered women and their children.

“We do have some expenses,” Bonsignore said. “We buy some items wholesale and resell. That’s our rent money. We have one paid manager (Doreen Goldsmith); the rest are volunteers. Not very many volunteers – fewer people are volunteering these days. About 15, and they work very hard.”

Most of the volunteers are from Scarsdale, she said. The longest-serving is Anne Owen, who has been helping for 40 years. Some work three days a week or more, Bonsignore said. “We think we’re doing something very worthwhile.”

While the shop mostly deals in crafts, those with a sweet tooth are not forgotten. Sweets are delivered every day by a volunteer identified only as “Tracy,” Bongisnore said. Tracy has been doing it for 30-plus years.

The Woman’s Exchange is part of a national federation that, in the early 1900s, numbered in the hundreds, but is now down to 19 members, including Scarsdale, Brooklyn (the oldest), and Fairfield and Greenwich, Conn.

The Exhange is open from 10 q.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call (941) 723-4728 for more information.

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