Harbor Style — Harbor Style March 2018
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If You Want To Get Something Done
Jonathon Kosec

Members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs – including our area’s three local chapters – are dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.

In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave a luncheon speech at the Guildhall Banqueting Suite in the City of London:

I came across some words of your present Chairman, which sum up the role of women very well: “Practical work gets done by women. They don’t waste time. If there’s a job to do, a project to organize, they get on with it.” This echoes something I said last year: “if you want someone to make a speech, ask a man; if you want to get something done, ask a woman.”

History also tells us that some 122 years before that time, Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist writing under the pen name of “Jennie June” attempted to attend an all-male New York Press Club event honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied entry specifically because she was a woman, which angered her enough that one month later, in March of 1868, she and 11 other women formed Sorosis, the first professional women’s club in New York City. Sorosis would act as a place “to manage its own affairs…represent the active interests of women, and create a bond of friendship between them.”

When it was time to celebrate Sorosis’ 21st anniversary in 1889, Croly invited women’s clubs through the US to pursue the cause of federating as a national movement of clubs, by attending a convention to be held in New York City. On April 24, 1890, 63 clubs came together and officially formed the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, ratifying the GFWC constitution for the very first time. At that gathering, Charlotte Emerson Brown, the first GFWC president, spoke to the delegates : “We look for unity, but unity in diversity ; we hope that you will enrich us by your varied experience, and let us pledge ourselves to work for a common cause, the cause of united womanhood throughout the world.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

The GFWC is represented across the globe by dedicated volunteers who come together as a club, working to better the lives of their neighborhoods, making towns safer and more beautiful, as well as extending the hand of fellowship and friendship to the individuals who come and make up each club. The GFWC is a gathering of women with diverse talents and backgrounds who are dedicated to their community’s improvement through their volunteer service.

Building upon a tiered structure, the GFWC links the individual Clubs to come together and allows them to work as a coalition for the good of their communities through many and varied programs within those communities. Some of the benefits of club membership, as expressed on the GFWC website, include strength in unity, support and encouragement, leadership training, professional development, health and happiness and a variety of volunteer expressions. The clubs rise to the task of making things better within the sphere of their own personal volunteer involvement.

These volunteer tasks center on the arts, education, conservation, home life, international outreach and public issues. One of GFWC’s lead programs is their prominent leadership in the fight to end domestic violence by raising awareness about this social issue. On this issue specifically, clubs on the local, district, state and national level join one another to speak with a unified voice to find ways to help stop physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse and psychological abuse. This speaks to every community in the country as there is no state, city, community or neighborhood that is immune from domestic violence. They sense a need for their involvement, and their leadership in this particular area is nationally recognized. The problem lingers in our society, but the work of the GFWC to this regard is stronger than ever. Their programs of domestic violence education, advocacy and their “Success for Survivors” all are working to defeat this foe that preys on our society.

While most of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs operate on the local level, the national organization finds itself with tiers of Club involvement. First, the local club directly speaks to the cause of determining the needs of the local community. Districts are the next level, where several local clubs come together to form partnerships to get tasks done on a broader, multi-county level. Those districts in turn combine to the state level organization, which then unites these local and district efforts together in results specifically tailored to each state. The 50 state organizations are then grouped into eight geographically placed regional expressions that are part of the national expression of the GFWC. In each and every corner of the equation, there are needs being met and differences being made!

According to the GFWC website, total projects for the last reported time frame included 86,225 projects which led to a combination of about 4,063,037 volunteer hours. This volunteer spirit led to $16,260,725 donated with in-kind donations totaling $11,284,972. That only begins to bear witness to a great volunteer spirit that works diligently in communities all over the world to ensure the change that needs to happen on the local level. As this was but a snapshot of a moment in time of all their impact, one can only imagine how much the GFWC has been able to contribute to their communities

The Greater Charlotte Harbor area is blessed to share in three local clubs – Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and Rotonda West are working individually and collectively to bring a variety of resources to their locations that quite simply would not exist if it were not for the efforts of their clubs.

GFWC Punta Gorda

The Punta Gorda Club meets in the historic Woman’s Club building at 118 Sullivan Street. Jannett Hawley is the GFWC Punta Gorda’s current president, and in a recent interview, shared the following amazing work that the Punta Gorda Club is engaged in. The Club works hard to raise funds in a variety of creative ways and then seeks to disburse it in ways that provides the most benefit towards the entire community.

The Punta Gorda club raises the funds for and distributes four $1000 high school scholarships each year. As a club, they have been partnering with local groups to provide resources that just were not there. Fifty-two years ago, the Club started to provide milk money for Head Start children who did not have milk to drink. This past year, that program has evolved into its present form, where the club provides clothing from “head to toe” for 100 Head Start children.

Fundraising has allowed the Punta Gorda GFWC the chance to send monthly donations to the Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies (C.A.R.E.). They also raise funds to send participants to the Hugh O’Brien Youth Camp (HOBY) that encourages young people all over the world to develop their leadership and criticalthinking skills in order to achieve their highest potential.

On the state level, the Punta Gorda GFWC raises funds and helps the Hacienda House, a home in Melbourne for girls that have no other place to go. General Federation of Women’s Clubs from all over Florida built the house and have continuously supported its ongoing work to reach out to those young girls who are in need of a safe place to be for the moment. It all flows with the desire of “giving a helping hand up, not just a hand out,” Hawley said. She has served throughout the state in a variety of capacities and positions, including former positions as District 12 Director, Florida State Chaplain and President of the Arcadia GFWC.

Other charities that receive support from the Punta Gorda club are the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Smile, Heifer International, Shop with a Cop, Birthday Bags for the Guardians ad Litem and the GFWC Disaster Relief Fund, especially helpful after the recent hurricanes. This part year, they also supported the International Air Show here in Punta Gorda with a group of volunteers, and five veterans received assistance for the Southwest Florida Honor Flights to Washington, DC, to honor them for their service to the country.

Founded in 1925, the club built it building and dedicated it to the community in 1927. The clubhouse was the site of the first library in Punta Gorda, when the women chose to carry out one of their basic themes of education by providing a place for the community to come and get books. The major thrust of education remains one of the club’s top priorities and it shows throughout their charitable endeavors. It is said that about 75 percent of the libraries in our country owe their start somehow to GFWC member clubs.

The Punta Gorda GFWC has about 70 members and meets the first Monday of each month at 11 a.m. at the Club’s building in downtown Punta Gorda. The building also houses the Punta Gorda Historical Society.

GFWC Port Charlotte

The Port Charlotte GFWC is located at 20271 Tappan Zee in Port Charlotte and has about 60 members, all of who actively support their fundraising opportunities as well as following up by reaching out to the countless charities that they support. According to President Joyce Powell, the club finds the word “service” at the core of its being.

Conducting a whole host of fundraising events, the Port Charlotte GFWC provides a great deal of support for the Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies. This reflects the national GFWC emphasis on their leadership behind the fight to end domestic violence in all its forms. The club also sends boxes to our troops stationed across the world, and they host the Field of Heroes Flag presentation on Veterans Day as well.

Through their volunteer activities such as at the International Air Show and paint party fundraisers, they continue to support local high school students with scholarships. They assist veterans through the American Legion, focusing specifically on homeless veteran issues and the needs that they face. They pitch in with Habitat for Humanity and the SWFL Honor Flight program and host a “Community Game Day” each week where the public is invited to come and mingle at their clubhouse and just share the time together. “We just felt a need to reach out and provide a social gathering place within our community,” Powell said. “This gives about a dozen or so people the opportunity to take advantage of the time together.”

Powell stated that their concern is to make “the best use of our resources so we can help the most people who are in need.” Through their members, they link up with other volunteer groups. It is the desire of the Port Charlotte GFWC membership to “be good citizens and do good things for others.” Participating in both the District 12 and state level leadership programs, the Port Charlotte GFWC seeks to be the best it can be. As it hosts rummage sales, and just about every other fundraising tool imaginable or even conceivable, the Port Charlotte GFWC lives out its commitment to its community. And they do it well!

Not content to keep their building just for themselves, the Port Charlotte GFWC will rent out it out to compatible outside groups so they can be of service to the other organization, which, in turn, raises additional funds that they then apply to those projects that are in need of support. A solid win-winwin for all involved. The spirit of dedication to service to others that drives this whole process is amazing to behold!

GFWC Rotonda West

Largest of the three area clubs, as well as the largest in the State of Florida, with about 164 members, the Rotonda West GFWC was founded in 1973 and serves the “Greater Cape Haze Peninsula.” Each second Thursday of the month, they meet at the Rotonda West Community Center building in Broadmoor Park, 646 Rotonda Circle, in Rotonda West, at 10 a.m. for their meeting, with a social hour one hour earlier at 9.

Club President Donna Krabbe noted that the club raises funds through a variety of community-based programs, one most notable is the annual “Welcome to Rotonda” book, which is sold to new area residents and features all the helps and hints of who’s who and what’s what and where’s where in the Rotonda area.

Sharing the national GFWC’s emphasis on education, the Rotonda West GFWC has raised well over $65,000 for their scholarship program for Lemon Bay High School. For those already in the workforce who need help going back to school for additional vocational training, the Rotonda West GFWC provides scholarships as well.

The Rotonda West Club is also known for its Craft Bazaar in November as well as its Holiday Tea. Funds are raised by the various committees of the GFWC in Rotonda West, who work hard volunteering so their particular charity can receive support. Members can identify new projects and get to work raising money.

“It’s all about our community,” Krabbe commented. “We find a need, develop a fundraiser to meet the need and then we go out and meet it.

Other annual events include Designer Bag Bingo, where participants can win designer, name-brand handbags as prizes. The club’s Fashion Show at the Jacaranda Country Club raises money for the Englewood Animal Rescue Sanctuary. Other projects they are involved in raise funds for organizations such as the Suncoast Humane Society, the Englewood Elks Club, the Backpack Kids program, C.A.R.E. and many others.

“We also do fun stuff!” Krabbe said. The Club hosts seven different book clubs, each with 10-15 members, as well as get-togethers of all varieties. They participate in the Epsilon Sigma Omicron Reading Program, which is open to all active GFWC members so that they can participate in a structured reading program for self-enrichment and personal growth. They send gift packages to service personnel, volunteer at Cedar Point Environmental Park, participate in the Adopt-A-Road project, volunteer at local food pantries and much more – too long of a list to mention. They are a busy club!

The Rotonda West Club also plays home to the Tonettes, a singing group that tours local assisted living homes and nursing homes in order to both entertain and carry out the club’s mission. There are also the “Crafting Cuties” as well as the “Sassy Stitchers,” who are as busy as their namesakes would suggest with crafting and sewing projects that, as you might guess, help raise more funds with which to accomplish their mission.

All of this volunteering and hard work raising funds has other rewards as well, according to Krabbe. “You will make some of your best friends ever! It is great when like-minded people come together, and the bonds of friendship that form over all that hard work are amazing.”

Each of the three local clubs echoes the national club’s theme of “Unity in Diversity.” They are coming together as unique individuals dedicated to community improvement through their community projects. The GFWC finds itself one of the world’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nondenominational women’s volunteer service organizations. Raising more than $40 million annually to support 100,000 different programs, they continue contributing about 5 million hours of volunteer time to get it all in.

The national GFWC has more than 80,000 members in affiliated clubs in the US and more than a dozen foreign countries. Their work in supporting the arts, preserving natural resources, advancing education, promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging civic involvement is also highlighted by their ongoing work toward world peace and understanding.

GFWC sets itself apart from other service organizations by its sheer size and depth of outreach. With programs that span all aspects of the lives of all of their volunteers, they work for global change, one community at a time. With a commitment to come together, identify specific needs and then addressing those needs with the necessary funds, the GFWC provides solid support upon which our communities have depended for years. Often all of this work goes unnoticed, simply because it has been around for so long, people cannot remember a time when the GFWC and its local expressions were not around, doing their work.

It almost goes without saying that if you are a woman looking for an ideal outlet to contribute to the integrity and fabric of your community, you might start first with one of the area’s GFWC gatherings. Their commitment to their programs and their openness to new ideas might be exactly what you are looking for.

The actions of Jane Croly back in 1868 give light to exactly what one person can do, given the moment and the circumstances, to change the course of history. Imagine how many things would be different today if she did not take those first steps to bring women together to make such an amazing difference. It invites each one of us to consider what our own individual efforts might actually become, if we act on the moment and make our own personal contributions matter.

We are all fortunate that Jane Croly acted that day. She truly “got something done” and it continues today and will well into the future.

Opposite page, top to bottom:

Fashion Show committee

Art Show coordinators Joyce Crumpton and Ann Friauf

Board of Directors: Mary Lyons, Corresponding Secretary; Rachele Adler, Recording Secretary; Ella Kulik, 2nd Vice President; Donna Krabbe, President; Connie Friess, 1st Vice President; Kathryn Gallagher, Treasurer; and Kathy Altenburg, Assistant Treasurer