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Woman's Club of Ocala marks 100 years

Celebrates service of caring, volunteering in the community

OCALA, FLA.—February 3, 2009—A gleaming silver tea service set the tone for the GFWC Woman's Club of Ocala's 100th anniversary. The event, "Celebration of Our 100 Years of Service," was held Jan. 25 at the Marion County Building Industry Association.

GFWC is an acronym for the General Federation of Women's Clubs, which is one of the world's largest and oldest nonpartisan, nondenominational women's volunteer service organizations. According to the federation Web site, members volunteer millions of hours each year to create global change by working at the local level.

Evelyn Fishalow, who served as the Ocala club's president from 1964 to 1966, is the eldest living past president. Fishalow and Tam Duggan, who was president from 1976 to 1978, attended the recent event.

The other living past presidents from that era are Joy Hayward and Aleene MacKenzie.

The GFWC Woman's Club of Ocala was organized, incorporated and federated in 1909. According to the club's official history, "Mrs. William Hocker, the club's first president, was the leader in setting goals for participation in the social and civic life of the community as well as in service to it."

Although, in the last century's early days, women were identified by their husband's names, their voices spoke loudly for advancing community action.

Fishalow recalls that, as club president in the early 1960s, "I didn't wear the same hat twice." She said she focused her energies on making club members aware of community issues, encouraging lively debates on the subjects, and giving direct services, such as sponsoring a hearing clinic.

Woman's Club member Mrs. William Sinclair contributed the "Woman's Club Work" column to the Ocala Weekly Star's Feb. 14, 1912, edition.

She wrote that the Woman's Club of Ocala planned to implement proposals from the GFWC's biennial convention of 1912. They recommended "a system of vocational guidance and training for boys and girls leaving school . . . at the ages of 14 and 16 years."

The current emphasis of the president of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs is Heifer International. The GFWC Woman's Club of Ocala, as well as all individual Woman's Clubs in Florida, support this project through fundraising events.

Heifer International offers long-term sustainable solutions to poverty and hunger in communities without the resources to be self-reliant for food and income.

The GFWC Woman's Club of Ocala in 2008 contributed money to provide what Heifer International describes as a menagerie. All the animals selected by the club are milk producing. The recipients are taught how to benefit from the animals, and how to teach others what they have learned.

Mary Ross, the club's immediate past president, and Mary Lou Todd, the current president, support its contributions to Heifer International.

During the recent celebration, the club received appreciation from many sources. Sgt. Angy Scroble, public information officer for the Ocala Police Department, read a certificate presented by the department recognizing the club's 100 years of service to the Ocala/Marion County community.

In a congratulatory letter, U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, wrote, "Much has changed in Ocala since 1909, but service-oriented organizations like the Woman's Club have remained an important part of what makes Ocala such a caring community."

—Judy Brandes, Staff writer, Ocala.com

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