Chris Parks is the 2018 Woman of the Year

Chris Parks (l) receives the Woman of the Year award from Christa Wetzel.

Each May, the Lowell Women’s Club spends a meeting celebrating the accomplishments of the past year. That means doling out scholarship money, enjoying a special program and naming a Woman of the Year.

The celebration held yesterday at the First Congregational Church was no different. During its two-hour meeting, members of the club, as well as numerous guests, enjoyed a special luncheon as they wrapped up the 2017-2018 year.

Chris Parks Recognized as One Who “Cares Deeply”

Chris Parks

The first order of business for the May meeting was to announce the 2018 Woman of the Year. Christa Wetzel, executive director of Alpha Family Center, had the honor of making the presentation to Chris Parks.

“The selection of the board was a hands-down, unanimous vote,” Wetzel said. She noted that Parks was nominated by nine different people for the award. What’s more, while the winner is only required to fill five of seven criteria – such as volunteering in the community and mentoring someone in need – Parks met all seven. “She is truly an unsung hero in our club,” Wetzel said.

Born in Ionia, Parks grew up and lives in Saranac where she co-owns a sewing and alteration business, Nimble Needles. She is a proud mother and grandmother who is quick to help wherever she can. “This woman joined Women’s Club with her work boots already attached,” Wetzel joked.

Parks has not only been an active part of the Lowell Women’s Club, but she lends her time and talents to a number of other organizations as well. She is a volunteer with Alpha Family Center, helps with various ministries within Galilee Baptist Church in Saranac and has been a member of the Saranac Area Musicians and Singers. Wetzel noted that Parks is one who “loved well” and “cares deeply.”

“I didn’t have any idea,” Parks said as family and friends waiting to surprise her entered the meeting space. After introductions were made and hugs given, Parks turned to address the members of the Lowell Women’s Club. “You all are the cream of the crop to me. I love you all,” Parks said. “For you to bestow this honor on me, I am greatly humbled.”

Tea with Madame LaFramboise

Ivy Stoller as Madame LaFromboise

After the Woman of the Year presentation, it was time for lunch. Each month, a different luncheon committee is responsible for preparing a meal for the Lowell Women’s Club members and guests. In May, the committee decided to host tea luncheon. Featuring dainty sandwiches, tiny quiches and a variety of hot and iced teas, the menu proved to be a hit.

Then, it was time for a special guest to make an appearance: Madame LaFramboise. Ivy Stoller, who played LaFramboise in last summer’s River of Time Pageant, was on-hand with Luanne Kaeb, her grandmother and the Lowell Area Historical Museum Education Director.

Stoller was dressed as LaFramboise and shared information about the historical figure who is known as Michigan’s first businesswoman. LaFramboise was married at approximately age 14 and took over her husband’s fur trading business after he was killed for refusing to sell whiskey.

At age 41, she retired to Mackinac Island where she is buried today. “I didn’t retire because I was old,” Stoller said as LaFramboise. “I retired because I had money and I could.”

Nearly $10,000 in Scholarships, $3,500 in Donations Awarded

Lowell Women’s Club 2017-2018 Student Members and Scholarship Recipients

Each year, the Lowell Women’s Club invites female high school seniors to become student members of the club. These girls are sponsored by an adult member and take part in a variety of activities from researching a topic to present at a meeting to helping with fundraising activities to participating in a special student member tea.

At the end of the year, the Lowell Women’s Club distributes 80 percent of all the money it raises as scholarships to its student members. Students must apply for the scholarship money and awards are based on criteria that includes financial need, GPA, volunteer hours, involvement in the club and special circumstances.

To conclude the May meeting, the Lowell Women’s Club awarded $9,600 in scholarships and gave each of the nine student members a special gift.

The scholarships weren’t the only money handed out by the group this year either. At the April meeting, the club approved $3,500 in donations to 17 different non-profit organizations and causes. These diverse groups ranged from the Lowell Education Fund to the FROM Food Fight to Wildlife Animal Rescue.

After installing its 2018-2019 officers, the Lowell Women’s Club adjourned for the summer. Its next meeting with be in September. All women of the community are invited to join the club, and membership dues are only $20 annually.

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