By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on March 25, 2021
From small acts of charity, such as making Easter baskets for Beach Food Pantry clients, to larger projects that include raising awareness and funds for the construction of Dare County Parks and Recreation Center, the Outer Banks Woman’s Club has made its imprint on the local community over the last half century by being true to its mission of living the volunteer spirit.
On April 21, the club celebrates its 50th anniversary, and its community service projects during that period are many. To name a few: The club’s Angel Gift Project that began 34 years ago has provided between 200 and 300 children with toys and clothes each Christmas; it annually hosts the Senior Citizen Craft Show and sponsored the first symposium on the “State of the Older Adult” in 2009; and the club initiated the International Student Outreach Program to assist with the orientation of foreign exchange students arriving to the area for summer employment.
The Outer Banks Woman’s Club was granted a charter in 1971 by the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs of North Carolina after founding member Ann Lamb, along with members Tonya Young and Margie White, invited every woman in the phone book with a 441-exchange number to attend its inaugural meeting. Since then, it has averaged around 40 to 60 members at a time.
Part of the General Federation of Woman’s Club based in Washington, D.C., the club focuses on five pillars of the national organization that its Community Service Projects are centered around: civic engagement and outreach, arts and culture, health and wellness, education and libraries and the environment.
“This is a great way to [give back to the community], and it’s really nice that when you join, you can participate in all of the things that we do, but can also sign up for the things that you are particularly passionate about,” said Michele Luckenbaugh, the club’s civic engagement and outreach chair. “And it’s been a great opportunity for me to meet other women in the community and I’ve made a lot of friends through the club.”
Luckenbaugh joined the club after moving full-time to the Outer Banks two years ago. As in her case, many of the members find their way to the group at a point in their lives when they are either retired or semi-retired and have time to dedicate to the community.
“A lot of people join the club, number one, to give back to the community they’re now living in, and number two, to make connections with other women who are like-minded and kind of at the same stage in their life,” she said.
The club meets about once a month and has relied on Zoom meetings this past year due to COVID pandemic, Luckenbaugh noted. The pandemic is also affecting the celebration of its half-century anniversary, with any such event likely to be pushed to this fall or next spring, she explained.
Despite COVID, Luckenbaugh said the club has been active in helping the community during the pandemic by working behind the scenes in a volunteer capacity as well as with the collection and donations of monies to different causes.
“In a normal year, we are more about being out in the community, being hands on and doing more volunteer work,” she said. “Living the volunteer spirit is our mission, so that is typically what we are doing. This year, we haven’t been able to do as much face to face, but we are still doing some where we can.”
This year alone, club members supported Operation Smile sewing projects, collected donations for OBX Blue Star Mothers, delivered goody baskets to veterans at Spring Arbor, held two food drives for the Beach Food Pantry, sponsored a Books for Babies program at the Outer Banks Hospital, held beach clean-up days and partnered with OBX Better Beaches to do beach grass plantings.
Luckenbaugh told the Voice that the club’s Community Service Project chairs meet with its club’s planning committees twice a year to determine the projects they will pursue. The chairs consult with community organizations to understand where the need is greatest and how the club can make the most impact.
For more information on the Outer Banks Woman’s Club or to join, visit https://www.gfwc-obwc.com.