Leading the Way
The Lexington Woman’s Club was organized on April 7, 1958 with twenty-one charter members and officially federated with GFWC-SC in May 1958. The Club’s first president was Nancy Fox Wingard. The newly formed Club’s objectives were “to create a common interest for the improvement and welfare of our community, social enjoyment and self-improvement of the members, and to cooperate with other organizations for the promotion of the common good”. Then, as today, the emblem was the Mirandy Rose; Club colors, red and white; the meeting time, the second Monday night of the month; and the Club motto “Work Today for a Better Tomorrow”.
The motto “Work Today for a Better Tomorrow” has yielded many fruits over the years. From 1959 to 1969, the Club joined other community groups sponsoring an annual Halloween Carnival to provide funds for a community park. In 1974, the Club sponsored its first “Spring Fling”, bringing organizations of the community together to raise library funds. This project continued until 1979, when the library mortgage was retired. During the decade of the 70’s the club presented over $17,000 to the library. Spring Flings continued until 1981, when the proceeds assisted the Lexington Children’s Shelter with the purchase of a van.
During the 1980’s, Lexington Woman’s Club adopted a number of community improvement projects supported by various fund-raisers. The Club hosted a Mardi Gras Benefit, and several tennis tournaments. These events allowed the Club to purchase a stove for Baptist Medical Center’s Cancer Unit in memory of members Dixie Clemenz and Ann Miles, who had died of cancer in 1982; a copy machine for Lexington Branch Library; and a state of the art nitrogen probe for the treatment of children’s throat problems at Richland Memorial Hospital.
The 1984 club year saw the inaugural Charity Golf Tournament, which continues to be played every spring. Proceeds have provided funds for Lexington County Library, assisted with the purchase of a cardiorespiratory monitor for Lexington County Hospital’s Neonatal intensive Care Unit, supported Camp Kemo, Lexington Children’s Shelter, Lexington Interfaith Community Services, Special Olympics and the Council on Aging. During the 1992 year, the annual gold tournament raised over $9,000 that led to the establishment of the Child Care Center at Lexington Technology Center. This enabled adults to have someone care for their children while they returned to school. This project won Lexington Woman’s Club First Place and International Fourth Place award at the International GFWC Convention in June, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The following year, the funds gave birth to a parent resource center at Red Bank Elementary, and the most recent recipient of the golf proceeds was the Association for the Protection of the Elderly. The “Landmark Recipes” cookbook has been another significant effort for many years. First published and marketed in 1984-85, it was reprinted in 1994. Sales proceeds have been used to purchase furniture for the museum, equipment for the library, and to refurbish the Children’s Shelter.
Other perennial projects in education include teacher and staff recognition during American Education Week, volunteering at school book fairs, provision of funds for indigent children to buy books, and recognition of club members’ children upon graduation. In the early nineties, the Club became an annual host of the adult GED students at a graduation reception. Special education projects have included the 1994 reception for the Ms. Lexington County Senior America pageant, an effort to educate attendees about the special abilities of seniors. Other projects were the 1997 reception for the Mentors Program, and the 1998 dinner for Russian educators and students visiting Lexington School District One.
In the area of Conservation, the Club began its Yard of the Month Contest in 1991. We nurtured a mini-park in downtown Lexington from 1976 until 1986 when it was moved to the grounds of the Town Hall and later named the Eli Mack Day Lily Garden in honor of the retired mayor. In the late eighties, several new specialty gardens were planted within the garden, and the members painted benches, planted additional bulbs, and added a birdbath.
Recognition of Arbor Day and Earth Day has been traditional conservation projects. We have planted numerous trees at local schools and have assisted with the preparation of nature trails for several schools. On the special occasion of the 1990 GFWC Centennial Celebration, the Club planted a Golden Rain tree at the Lexington Branch Library.
In 1990, the Club chose Pilgrim Church Road as its Adopt-A-Highway project, cleaning two miles three times a year. This continues to be an active project for the Nifty Fifty. Education has always been a Club priority recognized by its funding of many scholarships in the fields of education, medicine, and the arts. In 1996, the Club established an adult scholarship for continuing education. Sine 1983 the Club has provided two scholarships for local high school sophomores to the Hugh O’Brien Leadership Seminars. Funds for these scholarships have been funded by a variety of annual fund-raising projects and Progress Foundation grants.
The arts department efforts have enriched the lives of members and the community throughout the club’s history. In the late 1980’s, the Club presented an audio slide tour of the Lexington County Museum, entitled “Homespun Heritage”, to the Town of Lexington for the community’s use. During that time, we sponsored, with other federated clubs, a “Spring Fling” fashion show, and gardening funds for the Lexington County Arts Association and for the purchase of three GFWC road markers. The club also received an award of $1,000 in Carryall products for area schools from the national Biennia & Smith Arts in the School competition. The department has highlighted local female artists, led historic tours through the town, and taught the Club about its German Christmas heritage.
The annual Cookie Exchange was begun in 1978 by Ann Miles. Upon her death, the Arts Department became the sponsor of the event, giving each new member a basket for taking goodies home. Another ongoing tradition, begun in 1975, is presenting each member a Christmas ornament hand made from a sand dollar.
Pink, red, and blue ribbons have become the hallmarks of the Home Life department efforts, emphasizing drug awareness, breast cancer campaigns, and child abuse and neglect. The Club participated in the American Cancer Society Walk for Life for the first time in 1998. We walked as a team in the Relay for Life in honor of members who lives have been affected by cancer. We assisted with the MADD/SADD Prom Promise at Lexington High School. Home Life also directed the participation in Lexington’s Adopt-a-Family project for many years. In 1991, the Club “adopted” the ladies of the Babcock Center Home on Hendrix Street and has continued to entertain with seasonal parties and favors. In 1994, the club co-sponsored a health fair with Saxe Gotha Woman’s Club for women in the Lexington area.
Public Relations activities through the years include sponsorship of an “old fashioned stump meeting” prior to the 1988 General Election, recognition of Lexington’s “Outstanding Women of Achievement” during the 1988 club year and sponsorship of the Vital Video Program at local schools. In 1998, the department honored the veterans of our country with a program and reception on Veterans Day. We hope that this will become an annual event so that we all remember those that gave so much and to teach our children of their patriotism.
Internationally, a highlight of Club history occurred in 1994 when it hosted the Russia women’s basketball team during its visit to Columbia. Players arrived in November and were treated to a hayride, hot dog cookout, and a traditional Thanksgiving feast. They were driven to various local sites to train for the 1996 Olympics. The team and members alike enjoyed this unique opportunity.
The club has hosted numerous international students, treating them with lake-side brunches and Christmas remembrances. In 1990, the club’s international student from Brazil was entertained with a tour of Columbia, Riverbanks Zoo, water sports at Lake Murray, a local fashion show, a trip to an Atlanta Braves game and Stone Mountain. She was presented with the key to the Town of Lexington.
Throughout the history of the Lexington Woman’s Club, many members have been selected for leadership positions at the district and state levels. In 1992, Connie McFarland became President of the newly formed Midlands District. At the 98th annual GFWC-SC Convention in Columbia, Debbie Alexander was installed as state President. Connie McFarland became the Treasurer and Gay Clark became her Corresponding Secretary. In 1998, Mary Dozier Ellsworth became President of the Midlands District with Andrea Steele supporting her in the role of the District Secretary.
With the new millennium, the 1999-2000 year started a new fundraiser to raise monies for all club scholarships. The “Alice in Wonderland Tea” was a great success. The Tea was aimed at the children of our community. The Patchwork Players of Lexington performed a skit about Alice. Children dressed in their Sunday best, had a tea party with pictures and door prizes.
The club made significant changes during the 2000-2001 club year. We downsized our departments to Education, Home Life, and Public Affairs. The Big Bird Tea Party Scholarship fundraiser was very successful in its second year of operation. The club took great pride in the celebration of Veteran’s Day in conjunction with the American Legion #7. We organized the ceremony and provided funds to help the Veteran’s Monument (to be built in downtown Lexington). Departmental funds were raised by the sale of Poinsettias. The club received a Ronald McDonald grant for $5000 and used it to start the Homework Center at the Lexington Main Library. The funds were used to purchase a computer, books on tape, videos, primer books and more “Read Aloud” books. The club continued to be active with the Veteran’s Day Celebration on Nov. 11. The club voted to work on “A Tea in the Royal Court” as the Scholarship Fundraiser. Awards were won in all three categories entered at the annual GFWC-SC Convention which the club helped organize and run.
The Children’s Tea Party continues to be quite a success for our club. The 2003 event had over 200 people attend, both children and adults. The record attendance event resulted in our setting a limit of 200 at future tea parties. The club members voted to sell pecans, rather than Poinsettias, to raise departmental funds. This was very successful for each department. The golf tournament continues to be the CIP fundraiser. The club voted to support the ESOL program in Lexington School District One. The ESOL (Support the English Speakers of Other Languages) program assists families and their school-age children new to the Lexington area who have little education, few resources and do not speak English. This year’s proceeds will be used to purchase book bags, books, computers and appropriate software to support English language learning. Public Affairs did an outstanding job this year in coordinating the Veteran’s Day parade and the dedication ceremony honoring all veterans. The parade and ceremony was held on November 11 at the site of the newly erected monument in Lexington. A luncheon followed the celebration. Public Affairs Department received a certificate of appreciation from the American Legion for outstanding service and assistance.
The 2004-05 Scholarship Fundraiser, “Queen of Hearts Tea”, allowed children to rotate through six learning centers: pictures with the Queen, stories with Mother Goose, decorating cookies from Nestle Toll House Café, decorating valentines, digging for buried treasure, and decorating crowns. The club voted to work on the CIP, Samaritan’s Well, transitional housing for battered women and their children. Pecans were sold to raise departmental funds. All past presidents were invited to the May meeting held at Charlotte Compton’s event facility-scrapbooks were viewed and many old friendships were renewed.
The 2005-06 club year theme was Building on Tradition, Respecting the Past, Celebrating the Future. We enjoyed mixing things up this year by sitting in random ways during the meetings and answering different roll call questions each month to get to know one another. We had another successful Scholarship Fundraiser Valentine's Tea Party, we donated $10,000.00 to our CIP project, Samaritan's Well a shelter for women and children that is under construction in Lexington. The donation was possible from proceeds raised from our 22nd Annual Charity Golf Tournament. We collected cleaning supplies and clothing for the Katrina Disaster Relief, we collected food for LICS, picked up trash for Adopt-A- Highway, honored Teachers of the Year, sold pecans for our Departmental Fundraiser, gave two Scholarships to graduating seniors from Lexington District One and one GED Scholarship, gave a Reception for the 2005 GED Graduates, mailed cards and made meals for club members and their families during times of illness, health problems or death in the family, honored our Bus Drivers in Lexington District One. This is just a sampling of how we have spent our time, talents and resources for the betterment of our Community.