Hope Royer joined GFWC looking for an avenue to conduct community service. In her 40+ years with the Federation, she has found that, and then some. As GFWC Public Issues Chairman for the 2014-2016 administration, Hope is looking to change the dialogue on how clubwomen can engage in the discussion on the importance of public issues and public service with their communities.
Who or what instilled in you a passion for Public Issues?
I joined a junior club as a stay-at-home mom with three little boys under the age of five, so my reason for joining GFWC is probably a selfish one in that I was looking for a social outlet, in addition to community service. The emphasis on citizenship in the area of Public Issues is probably one of the most important things that GFWC has to offer—we are basically encouraging people to look at community issues and to take part in them through community service. The volunteer spirit is what our Federation is all about and being involved is what community service is!
What positions have you held within GFWC?
Oh, good heavens, GFWC and I go back a long way! I was an active Junior and held every office at the Junior Club level and went on to do the same at the General Club level. I was a Founder and Charter Member of the GFWC Kanawha Woman’s Club and served four terms as Club President. I came in at the district level as Second Vice -President and continued on to be District First Vice-President and President. I held district and state chairmanships even as a junior, and after serving as District President I continued as a state chairman. I started out on the GFWC Virginia Executive Committee as Treasurer and moved up to Second Vice-President. I was GFWC Virginia’s first President Elect and went on to serve as President, 2010-2012. My first chairmanship “outside” of GFWC Virginia was in 1985 when I served as Southeastern Region Meetings Chairman. It has been my privilege to serve on the GFWC Executive Board since 2010. In 2010-2012 as State Federation President, in 2012-2014 as the GFWC Public Issues Program Chairman and, now, as 2012-2014 Public Issues Community Service Program Chairman.
The emphasis on citizenship in the area of Public Issues is probably one of the most important things that GFWC has to offer—we are basically encouraging people to look at community issues and to take part in them through community service. The volunteer spirit is what our Federation is all about and being involved is what community service is!
During your term as GFWC Virginia President, you were introduced to the Kettering Foundation and the Bridging and Bonding conversations. How did this happen?
At the time, the partnership with The Kettering Foundation was actually a membership collaboration with GFWC. GFWC’s Executive Director contacted me and everal State Federation presidents and asked if they could find time during the spring to conduct an information gathering session. The timing fit with my Convention agenda and we were able to conduct one of these sessions. The conversation started with a very simple question, “What do you think has happened to volunteers, and why is membership in civic organizations declining?” There was a wide range of ages present. Sadly the discussion led to us to the decision that, with many people, community service in the form of volunteerism is just not a top priority. There are certainly many things that enter into this. These days many young women are busy and there are lots of two career families, but it all comes back to finding time to do the things that you want to do.
What changes have you seen in community involvement, and why do you think it’s important for our nation to continue to promote community engagement through organizations like GFWC?
What I’ve seen is obviously a diminished participation in community service. My husband is a past president of our local Kiwanis club. Like so many civic organizations, its membership has also decreased. When I look at volunteerism, I look at the things that it teaches, like compassion, kindness, appreciation, and understanding. I believe that the volunteer benefits from all of these things. It seems that we have lost touch with that. We, as a nation, have failed to encourage our young people to get involved and to stay engaged. Organizations like GFWC are important to our nation because too many people have been critical of the way things work. If you’re going to be critical, don’t just sit and talk about it—get involved!
You and your husband are very involved in service. How do you feel this has impacted your family?
Our three sons, who are now grown, are very active in their own communities. One is a public school administrator in Florida, one practices medicine in Atlanta, and one of them is an attorney in Virginia. All three are active volunteers. Paul and I like to think some of that is thanks to what they saw us doing. I’m sure our boys learned kindness, compassion, and appreciation, all of which are important to them as active volunteers.
As the GFWC Public Issues Chairman, why do you think re-branding the Bridging and Bonding conversation book was needed?
I think that it will help members of our organization and other organizations look at the declining membership numbers and develop a plan of action that will help us recruit new members and encourage community engagement. These are our communities and they depend on us in order to thrive.
Do you feel it’s important for clubwomen to hold these conversations not only with themselves, but with the larger community?
Absolutely! Part of this collaboration with the Kettering Foundation includes talking to people within the community, and spreading the word. It’s not a typical partnership where one can donate funds or give an “in-kind” donation. For the ‘Kettering Principal’ to work, we’ve got to talk. I honestly think that the purpose of the collaboration with Kettering was to come up with a solution and share it with other organizations. It will help people re-engage, or at least get more involved in their communities.
What do you hope to accomplish as Public Issues Chairman?
To have our clubwomen better involved in all aspects of public issues. Not just in its citizenship and patriotism areas, but also giving back to our servicemen and women and armed forces. The overall goal is to have all of our GFWC clubs deeply involved in their own communities and engaged in Living the Volunteer Spirit through service within their communities
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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.
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