|Debbie Struk and Jane Hussar at Safety Harbor SongFest 2016|
Are you thinking about Christmas or any of the other fall or winter holidays yet?
No, really, are you?
Probably not, but there is a group of women among us who plan for Christmas throughout the year. They are the North Pinellas Woman’s Club (NPWC) and for the past 38 years have facilitated Christmas Under the Oaks in Coachman Park. The annual arts & crafts event attracts thousands of visitors and raises thousands of dollars.
“We take those profits and each year we offer grants to 501c3 organizations,” explains Laura Bentz, who’s been a NPWC member for about 8 years and is the current grant chairman. “All the money from this event goes back into the community,” she explains.
The North Pinellas Woman's Club is part of GFWC, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which has been active in Florida since 1890. They are a group of very dedicated volunteers whose mission is to enhance the lives of others through service in their community. "Many of us had joined as young moms and when we were getting to be fifty and older, we decided to start a new woman's club," Jane says. "We took a risk – a good risk – with the same federation so that the younger moms could keep the group youthful. So it wouldn’t die out, so to speak.
"We have six areas of service," Jane continues, "those are the arts, conservation, education, home life, international outreach, and public issues." The organization takes special interest in educating women about domestic violence and prevention. SHAMc has been very visible in the community and because arts are one of the six areas in our focus, NPWC decided to get involved and we'd like to be a part of its growth."
The Safety Harbor Art and Music Center applied for a grant, asking for money to purchase a projector, a microphone, and 100 stools to be used for classes, concerts, and other events. The North Pinellas Woman’s Club selected SHAMc’s application and in October a SHAMc representative will attend their meeting to report on how the grant impacted the community. “That’s always the interesting part,” explains Laura, “because we need to know what each other are doing. As we learn more about you and you learn more about our group, we all learn about the good being done in our community.
GSWC started their grant program three years ago and Jane says they received 24 applications this year, from all areas of the community, and selected six of those applications from 501(c)(3) organizations. SHAMc received a $1000 grant.
|Todd and Kiaralinda receiving a check from members of the NPWC|
When asked what she'd like for the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, Jane said that she'd like them to get more grants to help school children have access to arts education. "Maybe classes the average or below average income family couldn’t otherwise afford. Maybe that’s something other groups in our community can help with too. What's important is getting the youth involved with SHAMc. We want children to experience things that they may not otherwise have an opportunity to do."
Trish Ford is chairman of community service projects. “I’m for the arts,” she says, “and SHAMc had a good grant writer. The time was right for us to give. There’s a high level of name recognition,” Trish says about the art and music center, “the odds are unfortunately often against the arts. Grants often go to other worthwhile non-profits, like animal rescue and such, but NPWC tries to balance our grants to the six areas that are important in a community.”
The club has won awards for many of their projects, including from the Department of Education for Teen Dating 101, where they bring in young speakers to educate teens on dating violence. The program reaches approximately 15,000 students over the school year. "We like lighthearted projects but we also take on serious projects," Jane says.
“We have a lot of fun,” Trish adds, “this year we had 23 women volunteer for Safety Harbor SongFest. We loved the setting and of course, the music.”
Well, we hope you’ll be back next year, women of NPWC. And thank you for your generous help in allowing SHAMc to purchase much needed supplies and also for all the wonderful good you do in our community!
The North Pinellas Women's Club is always looking for new members. If you’re interested, they invite you to attend their meetings the third Tuesday of each month at the Safety Harbor Public Library beginning with a social gathering at 6:00 p.m. and a 6:30 call to order.