Crowds gather at a past Christmas Under the Oaks to browse and shop. The Clearwater Junior Women’s Club has always hosted the event, but now the group is disbanding. They hope to keep the event alive, though, through other organizations.
CLEARWATER – After 56 years of service to the community, the Clearwater Junior Women’s Club is disbanding due to a lack of membership.
Erina Ford, the club’s co-president, said the club is for women ages 18 to 40, and the fact that women in that age group do not have time to volunteer is one of the main reasons the club decided to disband.
“Fifty years ago, more women weren’t working,” she said. “They had time to volunteer and be active in the community. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find women of that age group who have so much free time. It’s a big time commitment.”
Ford said it was difficult to attract members from the time that she joined the club in 2008 until recently. The group tried using Facebook, recruiting women at events and advertising through its website, but Ford said there was little interest.
The club’s legacy will still live on, however, because several Junior Women’s Club members will join the club’s sister group, the North Pinellas Women’s Club.
“(The North Pinellas Women’s Club) is a lot larger,” Ford said. “When a club has eight or nine members, the responsibility of keeping it going falls on the shoulders of two. Being part of a larger club makes it easier to still be part of it and be able to help without taking a lot of time.”
Looking back on the past of the Clearwater Junior Women’s Club, Ford said the club’s annual arts and crafts show, Christmas Under the Oaks, is its crowning achievement. Members of the club contact local artisans each year to showcase their art at the show, and donations collected at the door are turned into scholarships and grants that will go toward local communities.
“We usually get there at 5 a.m. and work until sundown,” Ford said. “It’s very tiring, but it’s also very rewarding.”
Last year’s Christmas Under the Oaks raised $37,000. The money will be donated to charities such as the Haven Center, Ronald McDonald House, Metropolitan Ministries, Humane Society, American Cancer Society, Clothes to Kids, Suncoast Voices for Children and four different local elementary schools at the club’s banquet on Wednesday, June 12, at the Safety Harbor Public Library.
Ford says the mood at the banquet will likely be bittersweet. Her one wish is that Christmas Under the Oaks remains as successful as it’s been for the past 36 years.
“A lot of the women that are a part of the North Pinellas Women’s Club who used to be a part of the Clearwater Junior Women’s Club are all dedicated to keeping the event going,” she said. “I’m very optimistic.”