GWC Annual Meeting, “GWC: The Place to Be!” at Greenwood Community Theatre, March 13, 2023

GWC members and guests gathered on Monday evening, March 13th, to celebrate our history and look forward to an exciting future. The weather turned out to be a bit colder than expected for an outdoor reception! The Arts Center of Greenwood stepped in and graciously offered their beautiful indoor space for our opening gathering. Our Social Committee once again impressed with an incredible array of savory and sweet treats, along with delicious punch (with champagne and sans champagne options!). The fun continued as our attendees moved across the courtyard to Greenwood Community Theatre. Our GWC colors were prominently displayed as members and guests took their seats in three sections marked by light green, white, and dark green balloons. What did that signify? The group was about to find out!

Mary Woodiwiss, Chair of the GWC Advisory Board, gave opening remarks and welcomed members and guests. Fifteen new members have already joined this year. New members were asked to stand. Guests were then welcomed and encouraged that they are always welcome: “We never run out of space or food!” Next, visiting board members of our parent organization, Greenwood County Community Foundation (GCCF) were introduced. Herman Fletcher (Board Chair) and Jeff Smith (Executive Director) stood with fellow board members and were recognized and thanked for their ongoing support.

In her opening remarks, Mary looked back over the past five years of generous granting, community building, educational programming, and the development of lasting friendships. She expressed both gratitude and excitement for what has been accomplished and for what our future holds. She gave us a fun analogy of GWC being the baby of GCCF. Over the last five years, we have gone from being a baby to an adolescent blossoming into young adulthood. Mary concluded, “I believe that GWC will persist as a mature, steady woman, resilient and strong and effective, contributing to the flourishing of this beloved community for years to come.”

Next, we heard inspirational stories from GWC members, recounting how GWC has impacted our community and how membership has encouraged and strengthened them personally.

Teresa Goodman and Caroline Dennis shared “A GWC Story of Collaboration”, the story of their initial introduction to one another in the fall of 2021 at the GWC Quarterly Meeting. Teresa had a vision for establishing a Toddler Learning Center to offer quality childcare as a stepping stone to bridge children to future academic and personal success. But at that time she could not find a suitable space to host this Center. What she did not know was that Caroline Dennis, Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, was sitting in the audience and also had a vision. Their church was large and had ample space for a children’s ministry, but now the classrooms and playgrounds were generally empty on weekdays. Caroline continued, “Since that night, Teresa and I have been introducing our organizations to one another and taking the long journey together from dream to reality. We look forward to the arrival of children and families soon into this beautiful Center that is at the intersection of need and provision.”

Summer Booker, Treasurer of the GWC Advisory Board, shared her testimonial of the impact GWC has had on her personally, “A GWC Story of Change”. Summer is a Charter Member of GWC, having joined shortly after moving to Greenwood. She shared that from the start she jumped in to work with “an amazing group of women who continued to pursue new ways of building up membership and to spread the message of GWC and the power of collective giving.” She reflected on the theme of change: how GWC changes lives, especially of the women involved, as we learn, give, and grow together. She concluded: “If you are already in GWC, stay with us. Try something new. Join a committee. Give of yourself. You are the most precious part of this organization. Be the change Greenwood needs. Receive the change for your blessed part in it.”

Laura Stowe, Co-Chair of the Communications Committee and Co-Secretary of the GWC Advisory Board, then took the podium to announce the exciting completion of a written history of GWC. Available electronically here and in print, GREENWOOD WOMEN CARE: Five Years and Growing, is a history in words and pictures. She thanked GWC and the members of the Communications Committee for all their work and support in bringing this project to fruition. Laura then read the dedication of the volume and presented the first copy to Mary Woodiwiss.

As a fun way to reflect on our history, we played a game of GWC Jeopardy! Rachel Strayer was our host for a 16-question competition. We had three teams marked by those light and dark green and white balloons. The game was hard fought, and at the end we had a tie between the two green teams. The prizes were sweet (chocolate!) and fun was had by all.

Next, Alice Hodges, Executive Director of Meg’s House and GWC Charter Member, shared “A GWC Story of Community” which included her thoughts on community during Women’s History Month. She encouraged us, as we celebrate GWC’s own history and Women’s History Month, to “connect other women to this phenomenal group, forge connections, embrace community, and help make dreams come true.”

GWC member Lisa Smith then took to the stage to give us a bit of Shakespeare (well, sort of!). We were enraptured by the soliloquy, penned by Charlie Stowe: To Committee or Not to Committee (that is the question!). Committees anyone? Here they are, with their chairs: Communications (Laura Stowe and Catherine DiBenedetto), Grants Review & Awards (Jan Puzar and Debbie Coesens), Social Committee (Holley Coyle and Courtney Christensen), Governance & Finance Committee (Summer Booker), Programs & Education (Laura Bachinski) and Membership (Deb Maschoff and Betty Adams).

As the evening drew to a close, Debbie Coesens, Marilyn Murphy, and Sally Kauffmann gave a presentation that highlighted GWC’s granting mission. Thus far, GWC has conducted four granting cycles with a total of $256,800 given in 41 grants to 31 organizations! Debbie noted, “Through our collective granting, we can support and strengthen the worthy nonprofits that serve our community every day!” Sally reviewed how each grant cycle works, from publicizing our process, holding information meetings for applicants, and conducting a grant writing workshop, to the review and voting process, and finally to the best part: informing our grant recipients of their awards. Marilyn highlighted a special subcommittee (open to all GWC members) that has been formed to administer a Women’s Health Grant, established at GCCF through the generosity of Jim and Denise Medford, and dedicated to assisting Greenwood County agencies engaged in women’s health related issues. In 2020, GWC was honored to be entrusted with the role of granting these funds. The first grant, which is offered bi-annually, was awarded in 2021 to The Greater Greenwood United Healthcare Ministry. The 2023 grant recipient will be announced early in April! Sally concluded this presentation: “Granting is truly at the heart of GWC! Thanks to each and all our members and supporters for making this possible!”

Laura Bachinski, Vice Chair of the GWC Advisory Board and head of the Programs & Education Committee, gave closing remarks. She announced our new Advisory Board Executive Committee officers for the next two years, who were confirmed on the previous weeks ballot: Mary Woodiwiss — Chair, Rachel Strayer — Vice Chair, Laura Stowe and Catherine DiBenedetto — Co-Secretary, and Summer Booker — Treasurer. She encouraged us to continue our journey of learning, giving, and growing together as we join with friends and neighbors to make a difference in Greenwood!

A special thanks to Laura Bachinski for door prizes from Main & Maxwell and Mary Woodiwiss for door prizes from her kitchen, and to Rowan Pallis for helping distribute door prizes throughout our event. Donna Foster, Betsy O’Keefe, Rosemerry Franks, Bobbie Fulton, Betsy Adams, and Rowan Pallis were the lucky names drawn over the course of the evening.

One final word: our next Quarterly Meeting, “Serving the Community through the Arts”, will be held on Tuesday, May 16th  at the Greenwood Soup Kitchen. More information to come. Hope to see you there!