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Amelia Islander

A Passion for Service

Jun 30, 2014 01:04PM
“The Salvation Army requested ‘angel tree’ gifts for disadvantaged senior citizens,” remembers Jeri Johns, president of the Woman’s Club of Fernandina Beach. “I was overcome with emotion by the items my angel listed— deodorant, socks, new pajamas. It touched me how little it was going to take to make his Christmas a good one.” The selfless emotion in Jeri’s remembrance mirrors the sentiments of the two hundred members of the three Amelia Island Woman’s Clubs, all of whom are committed to living each day to accomplish something—not merely exist—as reads the pledge of the Junior Woman’s Club.

“The Woman’s Club, the Junior Woman’s Club, and Little Women fall under the umbrella of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), which originated in 1890 after newspaperwoman Mrs. Jane Cunningham Croly was denied entry to a banquet honoring Charles Dickens because she was a woman,” explains Junior Woman’s Club President Donna Runyeon. Croly founded a club for women only in order represent their interests and encourage friendship. This ignited the birth of similar clubs across the nation, and GFWC unites them and supports their service efforts.

“The Woman’s Club of Fernandina Beach was organized in 1920 by 27 ladies, who met in the city library with the goal of doing everything possible to improve the city,” explains Jeri. In 1960, the Woman’s Clubhouse was constructed on Jean LaFitte Ave., just behind the Atlantic Recreation Center. Today the club’s members engage in volunteer work in the community. “We encourage membership, but we emphasize that we are ‘service-oriented’ first and foremost,” she stresses. Annually, the club grants college scholarships, participates in the Special Olympics, hosts Take Stock in Children’s “Christmas Glow,” helps Keep Nassau Beautiful, and supports Nassau County Public Schools, just to name a few things. If you are interested in joining The Woman’s Club, email [email protected] for more information. New members are required to attend a meeting and submit an application.

About 65 years ago, a club for high school girls formed. Little Women of Fernandina Beach has a tremendous presence in our community and a fine reputation. “We are teaching our members to serve and give back to our community, as well as to be leaders,” explains Teresa Spence, chair advisor for Little Women and a member of the other woman’s clubs. At each meeting, the girls are educated on a topic pertaining to females, including a self-defense class demonstrated by the Marines, ballroom dancing, and Breast Cancer Awareness.

While a major focus of the clubs is on service, there’s lot of fun, too! “The Little Women enjoy two dances each year, and the girls love the annual variety show of skits, whose proceeds this year were donated to Girl Power 2 Cure and the University of Florida Dance Marathon,” says Teresa. The other organizations with which the Little Women work include Friends of the Library, Simmons Road Cleanup, Toys for Tots, Quality Health, and Savannah Grand.

Just five years ago, the Fernandina Beach Junior Woman’s Club formed as a place for younger ladies—many are mothers with children at home —who are passionate about service. This chapter is growing and hoping to expand. “We need more ladies who are interested in giving back and supporting non-profits through hours of service, buying and donating goods, and offering their unique talents to help others,” explains Donna. “I really enjoy the work we do, especially the holiday party for the Peck Center children.” If you are interested in getting involved with this group, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GfwcWomansClubOfFernandina.

“We need community support for all our endeavors,” notes Jeri, speaking for the three clubs. “As you come across their projects, remember the good work these ladies—or, my sisters in womanhood—are up to. You are invited to join the club!”