The term “women’s club” may conjure up images of ladies sitting primly, drinking tea and discussing their knitting projects. The reality of the Lowell Women’s Club is quite different.
Yes, there was some discussion about sewing projects, but at the group’s April business meeting, there was so much more. Roast beef was served, a pie was raffled and nearly $14,000 was allocated to local organizations and scholarships.
It was par for the course for a group that many people have heard of but few seem to understand. After stopping by the recent meeting, Lowell’s First Look is ready to say the Women’s Club may just be the community’s best kept secret.
Club is One Part Social…
The Lowell Women’s Club was formed in 1928. “The story I heard was that all the guys were joining Rotary,” says Jan Thompson, a current member and former president of the group. “The women didn’t have anything to do so they created their own club.”
Rotary has long since opened its doors to women, but that hasn’t stopped dozens from continuing the tradition of the Women’s Club. That’s likely because the club is more than a female alternate to Rotary. It’s a thriving community of 60 members who come together each month to share a meal, pass out some candy and plan how to make Lowell a better place.
While the club takes the summer months off, it meets the second Wednesday during the rest of the year. After starting with Pledges of Allegiance to the U.S. and Michigan flags, members recite the Lowell Women’s Club Collect and then get down to business. That business includes handing out candy to everyone with a birthday in the month, introducing guests and enjoying a filling lunch. Most months, members take turns serving the luncheon, but every April, Laurels of Kent graciously volunteers to provide the meal.
Then, there is a chance to “toot your horn” as members share information about their latest activities and accomplishments. Most months also include a program of some type – last month it was delivered by a representative of the North Country Scenic Trail while this month featured a member sharing how she connected with a distant family member.
…And One Part Service
Throughout every meeting, there is a common thread: community service. The women share how they have been involved in area organizations, what projects they are spearheading and how they hope to raise money for future initiatives. There is a long list of groups that benefit from Women’s Club volunteers. These include the following among others:
- Flat River Outreach Mission (FROM)
- Pink Arrow
- Gilda’s Club
- Historical Museum
- Open Table
- Kids Food Basket
Members donate supplies to the Alpha Family Center and the Baby Pantry of Lowell. They collect goods for FROM, and Thompson is heading up a new project to bake cookies for those living in the Grand Rapids Home for the Veterans.
Plus, these women are also committed to helping the next generation of Lowell women prepare to step up to support the community. Each year, junior members are selected and mentored by sponsors. Girls must apply for membership the spring before their senior year in high school. For 2016-2017, ten junior members were selected. In 2017-2018, nine local girls will fill those spots.
16 Local Organizations and 10 Girls to be Awarded Funds
At its core, the Lowell Women’s Club is about supporting the community. The group does that by participating in a number of fundraising activities throughout the year. Their main fundraiser is the luncheon they host during Christmas through Lowell. They serve up homemade soup, sandwiches and pies to the visitors who throng the downtown for the annual event. Plus, they make crafts to sell at Christmas through Lowell and have a booth at the Fallasburg Fall Festival. At the annual Lowell Community Expo, they pour coffee and sell donuts. They also help with the Parade of Homes and sell soup, cookie dough and Enjoy the City books at various times during the year.
And then there is that pie. Every meeting, a member brings a pie to be raffled off during the luncheon. It is a highly sought after prize that everyone wants to take home.
“Whatever money we raise through our various efforts, 80 percent go to the [junior members],” says Thompson. “The other 20 percent goes to charities.”
Thanks to the club’s hard work, junior members will split $10,700 in scholarship money this year. One girl will also get an additional scholarship in honor of Bev Hall, a longtime member who passed away in 2015. The money for that scholarship was raised by Hall’s daughter, Andrea Harwood.
The remaining funds, $3,200, will go to 16 local charities and groups including Schneider Manor, Friends of the Library, LowellArts, the Rebuild the Showboat community and the Lowell Chess Club.
Looking for the Next Women Leaders in Lowell
At its April meeting, it was obvious the average age of members skews toward senior status. It’s something Thompson, age 84, says has led her to work on recruiting younger women to join.
One of those women is Robin Morehouse who was attending her first meeting in April. Morehouse is the director of women’s ministry at Impact church and says she’s interested is learning how the group and church ministries can coordinate community service efforts. A smattering of other younger women in the room proves the club’s outreach efforts are being met with success.
If the promise of working side-by-side with women leaders in the community isn’t intriguing enough, maybe the food will entice you instead. “[Membership] is $20 a year, and you get a free lunch all those months,” Thompson says.
The Lowell Women’s Club doesn’t have a web presence, but anyone interested in learning more can email [email protected], and we will be happy to connect you to a board member.