ARLEY - The new Arley Women’s Club officers and directors, who assumed their roles in July and will serve two-year terms, have new projects planned for the coming years.
The previous officers and board members served for three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We learned that, because we couldn’t do as much as we could (have), the need was still there, so we had to find a way to make (things) happen even if we had the difficulties of the COVID years, so we served for three years,” explained Barb Wills, who as AWC’s immediate past president will now serve a term as a director on the board of directors.
Wills was the 100th member of the AWC when she joined in 2018. “Despite the pandemic, Barbara’s tenure resulted in a steady growth in membership,” said new Vice President Beth Sargent, noting there are now more than 150 members.
The new AWC president is Laurie McGriff, who has been a member of the club since 2017.
“I just adore (the AWC). It’s an amazing club. It’s got really rich history that started with a handful of people in the Arley area that really had a passion for the library, actually, and they (held) bake sales and a number of different things to start the library,” McGriff said. “From there, they’ve just (grown) into 150 plus members and multiple different committees.”
In fact, there are around 30 AWC committees, each with a chair or co-chairs, which are organized into five categories with one officer focused on each group of committees: education, environmental, core, community in/outreach and ways and means.
McGriff’s focus is the five environmental committees.
“We help fund the fire department and the library and the schools,” said McGriff, “so it’s just a unique, great organization.”
She said that for the next two years, in addition to all the club’s other activities, the AWC will also focus on early childhood literacy with its “K.1.2.3. Let’s Read, Indeed!” reading initiative. To that end, two new education committees have been created, Literacy Volunteers and Interactive Storytelling
“We support the community in any way we can, but we want to focus a lot on this reading initiative,” she said. “We’d like to focus on kindergarten through third grade and see what we can do, how we can volunteer (and) assist the administration of the schools.”
She pointed out that the AWC does not intend to tell schools, only assist.
The AWC would also like to help promote literacy through the library and local churches, she said.
Sargent, the officer with a focus on the seven core committees, has been a member of the AWC since 2005, at which point she thinks the club probably had only 25 members.
She said she was one of the first members to bring to the AWC the idea of awarding scholarships to Meek High School students, and she is very proud of how much the scholarship has grown.
In 2007, the AWC was able to award one $1,000 scholarship
hanks to members’ and businesses’ contributions. Eight MHS seniors received scholarships last May. “In 2022, our scholarships totaled $22,000, and in 2023 they were $18,100,” Sargent said.
“Often supporters will specify a donation go toward AWC scholarships, and members have added scholarships in memory of loved ones, such as the Bob Smiley Scholarship and the Bobby Knowlton Memorial Award. The club, several years ago, designated the Maitland Newsome Scholarship in memory of one of our founders, Mrs. Maitland. Her daughter, Diane Alison remains a very active member,” Sargent said.
The AWC now also awards scholarships for dual enrollment classes, according to its website.
Sargent said that while she’d been asked over the years if she would consider taking an office, she never wanted to do so until last year when Wills recognized members who had previously served as officers at a meeting by listing their names and asking what they all had in common.
“I kind of felt a little guilty or uncomfortable because I knew I had worked on a lot of different things but I never was one of those people to stand up and say, ‘Yes, I would (serve),’ so when they approached me to be vice president, I thought about it, and I said, ‘Yes,’” Sargent explained, adding, “I was happy that I got to do it.”
Monti Pafford is the new AWC secretary and the officer focused on the six outreach committees. She became a member of the AWC in 2018. Since then, she said, “I’ve met so many people and made lifelong friends, I hope.”
She noted, “I’m excited. I think this is going to be a great two years.”
Krista Givens, the new parliamentarian, has been a member since 2021. She is the officer focused on the five education committees.
Sara Little, member since she retired in 2018, will remain treasurer for another term. “I had developed a finance committee, and we had changed from using Quicken to QuickBooks, which is more geared toward non-profits, and so I was still working through that transition and wanted to see it through,” she explained.
Recalling her first experience of the club, she said, “I just saw the different (AWC) fundraisers and always supported any of the activities they had and said, ‘When I retire, I want to do that.’”
She is the officer focused on the ten ways and means committees.
Michelle Rivers of Traditions Bank will continue to serve on the board as outside director. “The idea is to have a member of our board of directors be from the community so we may receive local guidance and perspective on how AWC can best impact the community,” Sargent explained. “It helps in longterm strategy and planning, and they help review financials, performance and plans while the current officers run the day-to-day of AWC.”
“We're very excited for the new officers,” Wills said. “They’re going to do a fantastic job, and as the former officers, we’ll do everything we can to support them and to continue working in this community.”
Other new events
In addition to its reading initiative, the AWC has some new events and fundraisers planned for the coming year, including a poinsettia sale ahead of the Christmas season and a couples’ social event for members and their partners, a compliment to the day trips and “Girls’ Night Out” trips that members already enjoy.
AWC’s “Kick Off Meeting” will be Monday, Sept. 11, in the fellowship hall at Meek Baptist Church. Lunch will be served. The doors will open at 10:30 a.m. for social time prior to the meeting and lunch at 11 a.m. New AWC member Dorenda Doyle will be the guest speaker. She is the author of three children’s book and a memoir and plans to speak about children’s literacy.
McGriff and the reading initiative committees’ co-chairs will give an update on the progress of these new projects, Sargent said.
AWC meetings are held on the second Monday of every month from August to May. AWC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and all funds it raises remain in the local community.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.