What enticed you to join a GFWC club?
My story is not unique, but it shows that a simple “ask” can change everything. Tim, my husband, and I had moved from our home state, Virginia, to South Carolina, where we were settling into a new community. A neighbor, Jo Norris, who was a member of St. Andrews Woman’s Club, invited me to a membership event. At the time, I simply wanted to make friends. I had no idea that becoming a clubwoman would have such a positive influence on my life.
Did you immediately feel at home with GFWC?
Yes, I did! Growing up, my life revolved around two women, my mom and aunt, two farm girls born in the 1930s who were life-long best friends. My Aunt Jean was a “doer,” the type of person who everyone turns to for advice or for help to get something done. Now that they are both gone, what I remember most is their laughter and the feeling that, together, they could do anything. Although I could not have put the feeling into words at my first club meeting, I think my heart instantly recognized that I was in the right place. I had found the women that I would laugh and work with.
How has GFWC impacted your life?
Most directly, it has influenced my interests and pursuits. My first club position was Chairman of Conservation and Beautification. At the time, I liked to garden and had an agricultural background, so it was a good fit. Inspired by club work, I took the Master Gardener training program offered by Clemson Extension, and later, with skills honed through producing the GFWC SC Clubwoman Magazine, I became a feature writer and garden columnist for The Greenville News. Throughout this time, I was traveling to state meetings and then to GFWC Region Conferences and Annual Conventions, which fueled a passion for travel. About twenty years ago, I combined the two and began hosting garden tours in the U.S. and Europe.
Like most clubwomen, however, I can say that this practical aspect only begins to describe the impact. My involvement with GFWC has shaped the way I see and understand everything, and it has shaped me as a person.
What does it mean to you to be the 53rd International President of GFWC?
It means opportunity. It is an opportunity to give back to the organization I love, to work collaboratively with a talented Executive Committee and Staff, to build the strengths of the Board of Directors, to reach out to local clubwomen, to fine-tune our programs, to bring forward new ideas, and to push myself to give it everything I have.
What are your goals for the 2020-2022 Administration?
My initial goal is to update operating procedures and, luckily, I was able to begin this process over the past two years as Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee. Sounds boring, I know, but it is critical to our success. Every viable organization must offer two things—competency and relevancy. We stand tall on an inspiring history that every member cherishes, but to be relevant in today’s world, and to attract and retain younger clubwomen, we must streamline and modernize.
What does this mean to the grassroots member?
It means a reorganization of programs that combines local efforts with global efforts, it means new club models and methods of communication, and it means member-only access to our program and training materials. Most importantly, it means changing some of our practices to make way for new ideas and benefits of belonging.
What kind of benefits?
GFWC members give a lot; we give our time, our talents, our effort, and our money—either from fundraising projects or out of our own pockets. Through some magic linked with that process, we begin to thrive as individuals. Our knowledge and confidence grow, our curiosity and interests take flight, and our passion and abilities develop. My aim is to multiply that magic.
One idea, already set in place, is to connect some programs with an honorary chair—an expert in their field who can excite us and help us cut to the core of an issue, so we see problems and solutions more clearly. Another is to develop new training methods that will facilitate the GFWC Advancement Plans, such as webinars and podcasts. We also plan to foster the understanding of other people and cultures through travel. When members of the Board of Directors meet in Albuquerque, NM, next summer, we will explore the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. All clubwomen are encouraged to travel to the most multi-cultural city in the world, Toronto, Canada, the site of the 2021 Annual Convention, as well as New Orleans, LA, site of the 2022 Annual Convention, which is renowned for its Creole cuisine, French architecture, and unique festivals. For those who want explore further afield, I am also planning a July 21-31, 2021, tour, “The Best of Britain,” which will feature gardens and historic sites linked to Elizabeth I and II, Jane Austin, Winston Churchill, and others.
Are you worried Covid-19 will curtail the 2020–2022 Administration or the work of clubwomen?
No, I believe that this difficult time will spur personal and organizational growth. Clubwomen will be eager to embrace new methods, will be more creative and focused in their efforts, and will not let their communities or each other down.
If you could write your GFWC legacy, what would it be?
Simply that clubwomen recognize themselves as an important part of this amazing organization, so that we enthusiastically embrace our work for the good of women, children, and families, and eagerly promote the opportunities and rewards of GFWC that have made our lives both rich and productive.
Cherie Lee Williams
Cherie Lee Williams is a vibrant leader who has found GFWC to be a wonderful outlet for her love of community service and her can-do attitude. As both the President of the Mesquite Club (Nevada) for 2016-2017, as well as a 2016 LEADS candidate, she quickly learned the value of making connections in order to bring positive change to the world.
Success For Survivors Scholarship
Each year, GFWC awards scholarships to help intimate partner abuse survivors obtain a post-secondary education that offers a chance to reshape their future by securing employment and gaining personal independence.
The Rochester Junior Women's Club
The Rochester Junior Women’s Club (Michigan) was established in 1956 with 16 members, and today has over 70 members that always come together to support one another. The club chooses three or four major charities to support and several smaller ones, donating approximately $30,000 each year. In total since its inception, the club has provided more than 1 million hours of community service, and raised more than $928,000 to support their community!