In Memoriam: International Past President Ernestine “Ernie” Shriner
December 15, 2022
Ernestine “Ernie” Shriner, GFWC International Past President from 2004-2006, was a humble and driven woman who approached new experiences and opportunities with passion and a positive attitude. Ernie passed away on December 2, 2022, but GFWC will not soon forget the inspirational energy and unwavering dedication she brought to the Federation.
When Ernie first joined the Town and Country League Club in Cheyenne, Wyoming, she did so for the fellowship and opportunity to make a difference in her community. At this time she couldn’t have known that someday she would serve as the first GFWC International President from Wyoming in the 100 years that the state had belonged to the Federation. When she took the reins in her new position, Ernie thanked the clubwomen who stood by her side and supported her for years, and said she was looking forward to working with and for members across the country and the globe. In her Inaugural Address to the membership, she wrote:
“I know that you will bring your usual enthusiasm, positive attitude, and devotion to the work we do together during these next two years. While one person can make a difference, a team, working together, can make miracles happen … Too often we underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, or an honest compliment, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. We are embarking on an exciting two-year journey together. We have new programs, new contests, new awards, and new tools to support your efforts. Now, it is up to each of us to remember that together we are GFWC. We are one team working toward common goals. And, together, we will fly our kite to new horizons with GFWC.”
Ernie’s special project was Literacy: Tutoring from the Heart, which aimed to train 7,500 new tutors and tutor 10,000 students by the end of her Administration. Clubs were encouraged to develop plans to participate in this project to raise awareness about the literacy crisis in communities. She also worked with staff at GFWC Headquarters to formulate a Women’s Community Service Task Force on Literacy in Washington D.C. This task force brought leaders of various D.C.-based women’s organizations and literacy groups together for a call to action designed to increase the number of people engaged in literacy tutoring.
As part of her goal to improve literacy, Ernie spent March 2, 2005, reading to students at the Cleveland Elementary School in Washington, D.C., for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. The kindergarten students in attendance received donated books and the school library was given more than 125 additional books.
“On that cold and windy day in our nation’s capital, I did what GFWC members do around the world each and every day – I delivered love and laughter to an amazing group of young children … Bringing the gift of literacy and books to people – young and old – through our Literacy: Tutoring from the Heart program celebrates the difference we can make in one person’s life. The personal knowledge of making this positive contribution is one that each of you will also experience through your own participation in this most worthwhile project.”
Individual clubs and State Federations participated in Ernie’s special project by interacting with local schools and libraries and by inviting guests to various events.
“I am constantly in awe of the work our clubwomen do in the name of GFWC. It is particularly pleasing to see the efforts made in the area of literacy, the President’s Special Project. Several conventions have invited authors as featured speakers and one had a tutoring workshop. There is no doubt about it – clubs are keeping the literacy ball rolling.”
By June 2006, clubwomen had exceeded the goal of reaching 10,000 students by 1,281 individuals, based on club reports received.
Another highlight of Ernie’s Administration was the work clubwomen did within GFWC’s health programs. Through working with materials from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, clubs made strides in educating their members and their communities about heart disease and osteoporosis. Both of these organizations honored GFWC with invitations to their annual galas in New York City.
Ernie also had the pleasure of attending the Heart Truth Campaign red dress fashion show and event in New York City, which highlights the importance of educating women about heart disease. She said GFWC was proud to serve as a partner in the Heart Truth Campaign and that she hoped to see the Federation continue to work to promote women’s health in communities across the nation.
During her term as GFWC International President, Ernie had the opportunity to travel and represent GFWC internationally on many occasions, including attending the 70th Anniversary Celebration of the Woman’s Club of Aruba, the annual Service Club Leaders Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Convention of the Confederation of Women’s Clubs of Brazil.
“Travel to conventions in Aruba and Brazil has certainly broadened horizons. It’s so impressive to see firsthand the great work of our international clubs. And it is equally important to meet these wonderful members on their own turf.”
Along with these triumphs, these two years were not free of challenges. In 2005, the lives and communities of many clubwomen in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but Ernie was quick to help rally the Federation to provide relief where they could. To the members and their families who were impacted, she wrote:
“Please know that your fellow clubwomen around the country are doing all that they can to reach out with monetary donations and a variety of support efforts through Red Cross and other relief agencies. And please know that you and your loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers.”
In her final address to the membership as GFWC International President, Ernie expressed her gratitude for all of the support members offered to her and their fellow clubwomen throughout her term.
“I can safely say that these two years have been among the most terrific of my life. For encouraging me, and not complaining about my long absences, I give special thanks to my dear family. To members of our Headquarters staff, who were always ready to help and to participate in all the preparations for events in Washington, as well as at conventions and Region meetings, I offer my deepest gratitude. And last, but not least, I want all GFWC members to know that you have my boundless appreciation for everything that you do. There is no doubt in my mind that our kite has risen to the highest heights!”
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