She’s a commodore — and a club pioneer

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Massachusetts yacht club’s first female commodore in 50 years is helping to boost membership, morale

Mary Breeding doesn’t consider herself a big deal. But she’s a groundbreaker in one small sense.

Mary Breeding joined the Pioneer Valley Yacht CLub in 2000 and is in the midst of a 3-year term as commodore.

Breeding is the first female commodore in the 50-year history of the Pioneer Valley Yacht Club in Longmeadow, Mass.

“I never really thought about it as we were leading up to elections,” says Breeding, 58, who was elected last November of 2007 and began her three-year term in January 2008. “I was very pleased. It is a reflection of the change in membership over the years; in the past this used to be a very male-dominated club.”

Breeding admits she was never much of a boater before she met her husband, Albert, who owns a sailboat and a powerboat. They joined the club in 2000 and both immediately became involved.

“We liked it because it was a very unpretentious place,” says Breeding. “They have a nice pool, beautiful grounds and a sail school. We love it.”

She began her service to the club by becoming a member of the pool and social committee, working her way up to treasurer and then controller.

“We have 135 memberships, and each member is required to put in 15 hours of work a year for the club,” says Breeding. “I would help plan monthly events, such as our potlucks in the winter and our big fish fry in the summer.”

Breeding later gained leadership skills and boating knowledge by planning the sailboat regattas held Sunday afternoons in the summer, as well as assisting in installing new docks, caring for the grounds and maintaining the pool. Breeding also helped usher in a new generation of members for the club, which required reinvention of old ideals.

“When we first joined, there was a membership decline,” says Breeding. “We saw a turnover when more young families began joining a few years later, and we had to start addressing their needs.”

Breeding says in early 2001 she could count the number of kids under 13 in the club, and now she estimates the number at around 50.

“When members are much younger, that opens up a whole different set of needs,” says Breeding.

Developing the sail school for the children, as well as recently renovating the pool house, are just a few of the accomplishments that have allowed the club to adapt to its new class of members. Breeding believes strongly in cultivating the friendly family atmosphere of the club for the future and leaving the “boys club” reputation of the past behind.

Breeding’s goals for the future include keeping membership up, staying on target with club maintenance projects, continuing to ensure the club is financially solvent, and developing new programs and activities for families.

“I’m enjoying it, and the chairs of our committees are great to work with,” says Breeding. “We only live about five or six minutes from the club and sometimes we just head over to watch the river and talk to members. It’s very enjoyable, and my husband is very pleased and supportive.”

For information about the club and membership, visit www.ourpvyc.net

This story originally appeared in the January 2009 issue.