With over 100 members and a mission of philanthropic service, the GFWC Women’s Club of South County is a formidable force for good in the community. From charitable grants and scholarships to creative events, the group is dedicated to supporting and uplifting local women.
“We recently celebrated 60 years of providing volunteer hours and fundraising – all for the benefit of our local community in South County,” says Eileen Schanck, co-team leader of external communications. “Our goal is to provide community support through volunteerism, provisional grants to local nonprofit agencies, and educational scholarships to women in need.”
The organization is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), which was founded in 1890 and exists both nationally and internationally. The South County group became a member in 1962, and has been finding creative ways to fundraise and help those in need in Southern Rhode Island ever since.
“We try to address the needs in this community,” says Schanck, which can often encompass several areas of focus, including arts and culture, civic engagement and outreach, education and libraries, environment, and health and wellness. Last year, in response to needs that arose from the COVID crisis, GFWC awarded grants to nonprofits addressing food insecurity, homelessness, mental health, and domestic violence – Westerly Warm Center, Inc., Jonnycake Center, South County Habitat for Humanity were just a few. They also give scholarships to local women pursuing a degree or vocation.
Big giving takes big fundraising, and a good chunk of their charitable dollars come from the annual Book and Author Luncheon. This year’s already sold-out luncheon will be held at the Dunes Club in Narragansett July 12, with former co-host of The Rhode Show, Michaela Johnson, emceeing, and featured authors Don Winslow, Luanne Rice, and Emily Franklin. All funds raised from corporate sponsors, along with book sales, tickets, and raffles, go toward nonprofit grants and scholarships. Last year, the event raised over $35,000.
While the luncheon is GFWC’s major event, the organization also hosts other programming, and members regularly volunteer
in the community. The Spirit of Giving Essay Contest invites local sixth graders to write about which charity they would donate to and why, and the club provides the winners with checks to present to their chosen charities. Club members have picked up trash along Route 1A, donated books during National Library Lovers Month, and given birthday celebration items to the Jonnycake Center. At least once a month, members cook and serve meals at the Peace Dale Dinner Table for people in need. In short, Schanck says, “We do a lot of things – just anything to help our community.”
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