By Steve Sears
The New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) has quite a past. 125 years to be exact.
But, what this large group of Garden State women are doing now to better the current and pave the path for the future ensures another 125 years and more.
Originally founded in 1894, the NJSFWC at one time had more than 40,000 members. There are approximately 6,500 current members, with 184 clubs statewide.
Mary Wolfe, a member of the Woman’s Club of Vineland, is also current state President. “The purpose, as it says in our Mission Statement, is to provide opportunities for education, leadership training, and community service through participation in local clubs, enabling members to make a difference in the lives of others one project at a time.” She then adds, “What distinguishes NJSFWC from other volunteer organizations is that we do not have a single focus. Our member clubs across New Jersey select projects that are relevant to their members and address the needs of their communities. At the same time, NJSFWC offers clubs structure and support in their pursuit of community service. Clubs have the opportunity to join together with other federated clubs to make their impact on a project even more significant.”
And, the tradition continues. Wolfe adds, “One way clubs work together is in support of the State Project, which is currently CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Jersey. Our clubs are working to raise public awareness of the organization and provide monetary and in-kind donations. Just one example – this month clubs have been collecting craft items, such as coloring books and crayons, which will give the children in foster care an activity to do while their CASA volunteer and other adults are in discussions. Since the beginning of NJSFWC, clubs have worked tirelessly in support of legislation that is of significant importance to our Mission. Just recently, club members were asked to contact their legislator on the same day (Monday, September 23) to urge support for Miranda’s Law. (Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag Act). This was done in conjunction with our international organization, General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which is headquartered in Washington, DC. President of GFWC Mary Ellen Brock is from New Jersey and is a member of the North Jersey Woman’s Club.”
Securing new members, as well as getting the word out to the communities served, is a challenge. Barbara McCloskey belongs to the Woman’s Club of the Denville-Rockaway area and is also Third Vice President and State Membership Chairman. “The passion of the women involved, the passion and dedication that the women have, I just feel that that passion should be better known to the communities and to the people out there. I don’t think people realize what these clubs are accomplishing or how much they’re doing.”
Wolfe also claims that communication with members state-wide is sometimes challenging as well. “I think we’re making strides with that through our website (njsfwc.org). Whereas previously all information was sent to club presidents, now all members have access to our state newsletters, projects ideas, etc.”
Birthday #125 is being celebrated as only the NJSFWC knows how: by serving others. “Early in this administration,” says Wolfe, “the Shining Future Endowment Campaign was started to enable NJSFWC to continue our work well into the future. Since the beginning of NJSFWC, most of our successes have been self-funded. But now we are looking to outside organizations for donations. Our dedicated website (www.njsfwcshiningfuture.org) was established to educate potential donors and provide a means to donate. With the funds, we hope to increase scholarships, work with organizations dedicated to helping survivors of sexual abuse and human trafficking, conduct a Membership Awareness Campaign and invest funds to ensure the Federation will continue its important work for the next 125 years.”
In addition, on November 16, the date of this amazing federation’s founding, the NJSFWC will hold a Day of Service. Clubs will be collecting and donating items for college students. “These items will be donated to Embrella (formerly Foster and Adoptive Family Services) for distribution to college students who have aged-out of the Foster Care System and do not have family support that is so vital to young people starting college,” says Wolfe.
New members are welcome. To learn more about what the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs and what is offered, visit www.njsfwc.org for more information.