For nearly 80 years, Le Foyer Club members were committed to fulfilling the Club’s mission “to promote and develop the intellectual, social, religious, economic, civic, and national activities of Americans of French descent and to promote French culture.”
“The purpose of the Club was to help integrate the French Canadian people into a welcoming community,” explains Roger Bonin, Le Foyer’s president, noting there was a major influx of French Canadians into the Pawtucket and Central Falls areas in the early 1900s.
In the early years, Le Foyer organized social events, sponsoring concerts, bazaars, raffles, dances, cribbage, bowling, and golf leagues. They also hosted dignitaries from Canada and France, gave testimonial dinners, and held literary discussions. Activities – both cultural and social – continued through the decades at Le Foyer’s building overlooking I-95 in Pawtucket.
In 1943, the Club set up a scholarship fund, which later became a separate nonprofit organization, Le Foyer Educational Loan Trust. From the 1980s to 2014 the Educational Loan Trust provided interest-free loans for local students to fund higher education expenses.
Throughout the course of Le Foyer Club history, the Club represented French Canadians from the five major parishes in the Pawtucket/Central Falls neighborhoods, at one time boasting more than 1,000 members. However, like many social organizations, membership waned in the 1990s.
“We came to realize we had fulfilled our mission,” Denise Rodriguez, chairwoman of the board of trustees of Le Foyer Educational Loan Trust, says of the decision to dissolve both organizations. With their remaining assets, the two organizations have established this fund to benefit the American-French Genealogical Society (AFGS) in Woonsocket.
“It seemed like a good fit for us. The AFGS was one of the many clubs that developed through Le Foyer membership. By establishing an endowment under the stewardship of the Rhode Island Foundation, AFGS will always have resources available for academic and/or community programs to promote and preserve French language and culture,” Roger acknowledges.