BY JACK SHORT - The Boca Grande Woman’s Club raised and awarded a total of $197,175 to local schools, island nonprofit groups and island-related causes this year. They have also raised a record-breaking $200,000 that will be awarded as scholarships to local students next year.
The club has 160 active members and 166 sustaining members, and has no non-volunteer staff.
“People who want to give are impressed by the fact that we’re 100 percent volunteer and we have no staff, so the money does not go to any administration or buildings,” said Hebe Murphy, president of the club. “It goes to the programs for which it’s designated.”
They hold several events throughout the year to raise money, the majority of which, Murphy said, comes from their annual gala and Boca Bargains, both run and staffed by volunteers.
Every spring they hold a special event she describes as “our thank you to the community,” the Spring Fair, which features concessions, games and the Community Center’s Bike Parade.
Murphy said the group’s main interest is the scholarship fund and other youth-oriented programs because of the importance of nurturing future generations. She is impressed by donors and participants who are willing, after having raised a family or having a career, to take their time, money or expertise and give back to others.
To qualify for the Woman’s Club scholarships, students or their parents must live in Boca Grande, and the students must maintain a “B” average and show qualities such as the willingness to volunteer or give back to their community.
Hebe says the recipients study diverse subjects, from marine biology to dentistry and mechanical engineering at community colleges as well as four-year universities.
Students in four-year programs are awarded $4,500 annually and those in two-year programs are awarded $2,000 a year for the duration of their studies, as long as they maintain eligibility requirements.
This year there are 23 new applicants who will be joining those who receive awards already – 30 applicants already enrolled in various colleges and universities.
The club also raises money for island nonprofits such as the Boca Grande Child Care Center, which has not raised tuition in more than 10 years. The funds they receive will provide for scholarships and repairs to the grounds.
The Island School will receive funds to help conduct their after-school program, and for professional development and technology upgrades.
Lee County Parks and Recreation will also get some help for their six-week youth summer camp, run by Joe Wier. Its 40 participants will be able to take two field trips per week during the course of the summer because of the club’s donations.
County schools will also get some help. L.A. Ainger’s music program will be able to purchase “smart music programs” that allow the program’s 210 students to practice and receive feedback at home, and Lemon Bay High School’s music programs will benefit, too.
Band director Joshua Grossnicklaus said, “The Boca Grande Woman’s Club has a tremendous positive impact on the Lemon Bay High School band program. In the past few years, they have made it possible for dozens of students to remain active and involved in music through their sponsorship of scholarships. They have also made it possible for those students to have instruments to play.”
He said he is extremely grateful that there is a group willing to make a positive impact on so many young students’ lives.
Murphy said she has seen music programs like those at LA Ainger and LBHS make a real difference in students’ lives.
“We had a mother come to us whose daughter wasn’t part of any group and was having a hard time. She became part of the band. It’s changed her whole demeanor and personality and she’s part of something,” Murphy said. “She loves music.”
Lemon Bay High School’s Project Graduation, a drug- and alcohol-free graduation celebration for which the students raise money with bake sales and car washes, will receive a boost from the Woman’s Club again this year.
Money will also go towards LBHS’s football program in the form of scholarships and pre-game meals.
Head Coach David Ogilvie said, “Our district is really spread out, and it’s hard for kids to get home, eat something and get back, and it puts stress on parents who have to get them back and forth wherever they have to go. They’ve supplied us with our pre-game meals and it has just been a blessing to us.”
He said the team has a running joke with the Woman’s Club: the club provides meals and in return they get full credit for all the team’s wins.
The students appreciate it, too. Ogilvie said many of his players volunteer at the Spring Fair, help set up and play games with the kids in attendance.
Other nonprofit groups that will receive money include BIPS, Boca Grande Art Alliance, Boca Grande Health Clinic, Boca Grande Historical Society, Crowninshield Community House, Friends of Boca Grande Community Center, Gasparilla Maritime Museum, the GICIA, the Johann Fust Community Library, the Mote Marine Center on the island and the Royal Palm Players.
“All of these are not-for-profits, they’re all on the island, and they all benefit the community,” Murphy said. “This is all child- and student-oriented ... because they are our future.”View More images >>
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