VINTON–Kathryn Sowers of Vinton serves as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) Southeastern Region President. She recently joined other members of the GFWC Board of Directors on August 28 on a “whirlwind tour” of Washington, D.C., before their August board meeting in the nation’s capital.
Their stops included a White House briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, an event at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), and tours of Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
The group was briefed by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, and many other staffers on a variety of topics and initiatives, including policy briefings, elder abuse, veterans and military families, violence against women, and First Lady Michele Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” campaign.
Jarrett thanked the board members in attendance for their “unyielding service to the country, and GFWC’s 125 years of federation.”
She kicked off the dialogue by stating, “We do public service best when we learn from you.”
Jarrett noted that the administration’s agenda and GFWC’s agenda were in “perfect alignment” as the subsequent briefing reflected.
Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging, and Judith Kozlowski, Senior Advisor for Elder Justice, opened the briefing with background on their efforts to tackle financial exploitation and elder abuse of seniors.
“With 10,000 U.S. citizens a day turning 65, it’s an issue that is going to become more prevalent,” they reiterated.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Nicole Malachowski, Executive Director of the “Joining Forces Initiative,” spoke about their aim of highlighting the positive aspects of military veterans and their families as “civic assets.” She challenged the GFWC to continue its work for veterans.
Their next briefing was on violence against women, led by Marylouise Kelly, the Director of the Family Violence Prevention and Services and Jen Kaplan from the Department of Justice Office of Violence against Women.
Each woman spoke about innovations in domestic violence programs, highlighting the fact that each day, 66,000 women seek domestic violence assistance, and as many as 10,000 are turned away because no service is available.
GFWC International President Babs J. Condon made a plea with the officials to work with GFWC on this issue–GFWC’s signature project—to “make an immediate and lasting difference.”
The final briefing was presented by Jackie Dineen , the Office of the First Lady’s Associate Policy Director, who led a panel on Michele Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative.
The GFWC Board next visited the WIMSA Memorial for a luncheon and presentations from Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, (Ret.), Sandra Latta, and Commander Tamara Lawrence, from the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
Each woman praised GFWC for its continued support of and “its passion for community service.” GFWC clubwomen have donated $482,187 to WIMSA to date.
“Your efforts are felt deep down by those who serve,” stated Lawrence. “You don’t realize the example you set.”
The board then toured Arlington National Cemetery, including stops at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, before concluding the day at the National Museum of American History.
The local GFWC demonstrates that passion for community service praised by Commander Lawrence. The club has been extremely active in the Vinton community and the surrounding area since they were established in 1954. Lois Creasy currently serves as the Vinton GFWC president.
While they have set projects each year, the local GFWC has a long history of tackling any community needs which arise.
In their early years, the club raised funds for cancer research, donated money to the Vinton Welfare Department for dental care and gave them shoes for the needy. They presented nursing scholarships and planted trees at the Vinton Pool.
They raised funds with pancake suppers and bake sales, and once raffled off a mink stole. They recycled aluminum and sold fried apple pies and pinto beans at what was then the Vinton Folk Life Festival. In 2013 they sold homemade dog biscuits at the Fall Festival.
One year they cleaned windshields in the old Mick or Mack parking lot as a safety project. They have stuffed Christmas stockings and dressed dolls for the Salvation Army.
In past years, members helped screen children for eye disease, worked with veterans at the VA Hospital, decorated the War Memorial for Christmas and bought drapes and linens for the facility. They held civil defense programs, teas for local teachers, and dances for teens.
Throughout its 60 years, the club has continued to fundraise for the American Heart Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the American Red Cross, and PBS.
Wherever there is a need, they continue to do their best to meet it.
They serve dinners at the Rescue Mission, and prepare and serve supper at Ronald McDonald House. They have collected coats for Manna Ministries, soup for seniors, and throws and bags for veterans. They have sent cards to soldiers overseas in the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” drive.
They took on the cause of domestic abuse early on with donations of money and supplies to what was then known as the “battered women’s shelter.” Nowadays they support the Turning Point shelter with donations and partner with the Vinton Police Department to plant a Pinwheel Garden at the Municipal Building each spring to call public attention to the issue of child abuse.
Each year the GFWC Woman’s Club of Vinton awards a $1,000 scholarship to a senior graduating from WBHS. They deliver treats to the Vinton Police and Fire Departments each month on the eleventh day in remembrance of September 11, 2001.
“We are a great organization trying to help make the world a better place and we need more help and ladies of like interest.” said Sowers.