CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF WOMEN’S EXCHANGE
REFLECTIONS by Donna Paola (August 2016)
Women's Exchange is a prime example of the"ripple effect" metaphor— pebbles thrown into a pond creating ripples of unknown impact and distance. The idea of this group was born from my experience in a new mothers' group I had experienced called Mothers Together--it was the proverbial pebble thrown into the pond that caused the “ripple” of Women's Exchange. Within the past 20 years, we have developed many pebbles and corresponding ripples through our various gatherings, special interest groups and outings. We have cast our pebbles into the pond of life and created the most important of ripples: connections between women in our community and beyond. (Sometimes throwing small stones is okay!)
As many of you know, it always surprises me when I mention names of past WEX members who are no longer with us (moved, working full time, passed on, etc.). It seems odd to me that those who were so integral to the group at one point are now only remembered by very few or none. This is a lesson for me. What is the lesson? I guess that no one is really indispensible by herself—it’s the joining of our time and talents that makes the bigger difference. That is also why I am always uncomfortable when someone says that I “founded” Women’s Exchange. Yes, I had the idea and sent that original letter in 1996. I got others together who shared some of the same needs and desires that I had. But, had it not been for those original core ladies, WEX would have easily faded away. Together we developed the group.
So, we strive to continue the “mission” of Women’s Exchange not only for ourselves but, perhaps, as an honor to those who’ve worked hard in the past, too. We try to communicate our mission by reminding ourselves in each newsletter. Why do we meet?
--To help provide friendship and fellowship
--To provide a place of support for sharing concerns
--To be all inclusive and open to all in the community
--To provide an arena for exploring current issues that we want to talk about
--To offer opportunities for programs and discussions on topics that may broaden our horizons where we might learn something new
--To go to new places with our friends or spend time at old favorites
--To have fun!
From this basic vision, so many subgroups have emerged and flourished over the years—book club, hiking, lunch bunch (a combination of the former outings and gourmet lunch groups), golf (yes, we had a steadfast group at one point!), breakfast club (led by Helena Reusser years ago), bunko, gals and pals, bowling and two philanthropic programs annually. Most of these groups continue because of the “hidden” treasure within WEX—the high level of skills, talents and energy shared among our many members. This outlet for ourselves is no small benefit to all of us, as givers and receivers.
Once in awhile, it’s beneficial to sit back and reflect upon where we’ve been, isn’t it? I thought it might be interesting to do so as I step away from being your Registrar and take a less integral role. (Afterall, this was bit of my “baby”!) Women’s Exchange begin in 1996 with that original mailing to over 20 ladies I barely knew. We’ve come a long way since then and what we’ve seen through the years. . .
--At our original organizational meeting, we had 30 women. We decided where we would meet, when and how often, our name, etc. At the second meeting, half that number showed up.
--We originally had only one “leader/worker” besides me—Patricia Emerick served as our first Hospitality person. She was always sure to have hot tea (she didn’t drink coffee) and fresh cream for coffee. Some would say she was our humor chairperson too.
--We averaged 20-25 attendees over the years, I’d say.
--We had childcare for a few with young children.
--Our programs were almost always provided by WEX members. Ladies shared ideas, skills, etc. with informal presentations, discussions, panels, etc.
--Email happened! (Phone committee eliminated.)
--Church of the Lakes building changed. We used to meet in the “old parlor” and “small hall” in the lower level of the building.
--We decided we liked meeting so much that we would miss one another during the summer. So we developed the idea of having monthly summer events to keep in touch.
--We started a Sunshine person to send cards, flowers, etc. to our members because we care about one another.
--Philanthropy—we felt strongly that we did not want to become a philanthropic group, per se. We each had so many projects and volunteer demands and we wanted to preserve the feeling that WEX is a bit of refuge. We also recognized the potential for hurt feelings if one member’s cause/project became favored over another. (We also didn’t want to become “used” so to speak by anyone who might not understand the flavor of the group.) So, we wisely chose one beneficiary of our efforts that matched our group—Domestic Violence Project. Later, we added a spring philanthropic project that could change each year.
--Holiday and Spring Brunch gatherings changed from pot luck to restaurants
--WEX couples holiday party “came” for a few years and then “went” due to low attendance
--Registration fee increased one time in 20 years! $15 to $20. Peak membership of 100.
--Went from one “leader” in 1996 to 25 on current leadership list. Held 3 leadership retreats.
--At one point, we’ve had members in South Carolina, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Tennessee. (Former members who moved.)
--WEX publicity in Canton Rep via Saimi Bergman; Akron Beacon Journal mention when 20 of us went to Stan Hywet Ohio Mart
--18 ladies have served as Overall Coordinator. (By the way, we use that term “coordinator” to symbolize the comradery of the group rather than any type of status or power.)
--20 years would mean. . .
160 regular meetings (8 per year—maybe more)
320 pots of coffee (at least 2 per meeting)
5560 announcements (average of 5 per meeting)
1,725,000 pages read by Book Club members (150 books, 400 pages, 25 avg. readers)
224,640 bowling balls thrown by our bowlers (8 years, 12 bowlers per year)
2100 miles hiked by our hikers (avg. 10 hikers, 14 years, 15 miles/season)
3600 meals together (after meetings, brunches, outings, lunch bunch)
6912 golf balls hit by our long ago golfers (2 years, 8 golfers, 9 holes, avg. 7 balls)
500+ holiday gift bags compiled and donated to DVP
--Currently, we have 70 members! If we stay a dynamic group willing to accept new ideas and change—if we embrace the talents and skills of our members---there is no telling how bright the next years can be!
1996 Donna Paola
1997 Donna Paola
1998 Donna Paola
1999 Brenda French
2000 Mindy Schleich
2001 Nancy Pierson
2002 Lori Moss
2003 Denise Scala
& Barbara Troy
2004 Mary Calnon
2005 Beth Donelan
2006 Dianne Oliver
2007 Darlene Violet
2008 Mary Alice Feczko
2009 Sherry Martell
2010 Nancy Farrell
2011 Linda Norton
2012 Lisa Wind
2013 Barbara McCarren
2014 Elizabeth McCormick
2015 Elizabeth McCormick
2016 Suni Lopez Ortiz
2017 Joyce Huberty
2018 Suzanne Halm
2019 Suni Lopez Ortiz