By LOIS KINDLE
The 109-year-old GFWC Ruskin Woman’s Club recently kicked off its September through May season of meetings and events, and this year promises to be a humdinger.
“We are definitely going to be active this year,” said Kat Sherwood, 2021-2023 club president. “In addition to our regular meetings, we’ll be having monthly socials, day trips, several fundraisers and a number of service projects.
“Our focus this year is to make a difference in Ruskin, and my President’s Project is human trafficking. “We’ll be pairing with both Hope for Justice Florida and the Miel y Canella Foundation to shine a light on this important issue. The Tampa Bay area is No. 3 in the United States for human trafficking, and it’s alive and well in the Ruskin area and South Shore farming communities.”
Sherwood added the club’s first project will be hanging posters in local business’ restrooms, which provide information to people who are human trafficking victims about where they can go for help.
“I don’t want us to simply throw money at this,” she said. “We want to do something hands-on that makes a difference in our area.”
Membership in the GFWC Ruskin Woman’s Club is open to women 18 and older. Sherwood said prospective members are asked to attend two meetings to learn if the club is for them before they officially join. Dues are $50 per year.
Meetings are held at noon the first Wednesday of the month, September through May. Free, light lunch is included.
Here are just some of the activities and events already slated for the season; specific dates are yet to be determined:
• Donating special pencils and composition books for the PCAT Family Literacy Ministries, collecting nonperishable foods for a local food pantry and signing Christmas cards for active duty members of the military;
• Hosting a variety of fundraisers, including the Fall Festival and Rummage Sale in November, Breakfast in Santa’s Village in December, the Sweetheart Tea in February and Jukebox Bingo in March to help pay for upkeep of the club’s historic clubhouse at 503 U.S. 41 S, Ruskin, and local scholarships for high school graduates;
• Taking day trips for lunch at places like Limoges in Dade City and the Lavender and Lace Tea Room in Lake Alfred;
• Making and selling watermelon rind pickles, jams and jellies, possibly tomato salsa to raise money for the club’s scholarship fund;
• Supporting Ruskin nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations like Ruskin Elementary School, Mary & Martha House;
• Awarding $1,000 college scholarships to area high school graduates, mature women continuing their education and graduates going on to technical school. The number of recipients depends on the annual amount the club makes from fundraisers each season.
Business owner Cheryl DeLeon, 53, has been a member of the GFWC Ruskin Woman’s Club for the past five years and was its 2019-2021 president. She highly recommends membership to woman of all ages.
“I love the club, its history and community building, the support network our members provide and the unity of everyone coming together to make things happen.”
Amber Council, 50, owns a sod farm with her husband Travis. She’s been involved with the club for 22 years.
“The history of Ruskin and the club (which are interconnected) is important to me,” she said. “Being a member is a way for me to give back to the community I’ve lived and worked in for 30 years. I feel if you are going to live here, you need to do something to make it a better place to live.
Juanita Sehorne, 76, has been a club member for the past 30 years, still works part time a couple days per week and wouldn’t think of not being involved with the club.
“I enjoy being with the ladies and learning about their likes and dislikes, their passions and how they’ve dealt with the ups and downs of their lives,” she said. “And I enjoy being involved, as much as I possibly can, in projects that benefit the community. We all need to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
If you’d like to learn more about the GFWC Ruskin Woman’s Club, its members or becoming one yourself, call 813-296-3900, visit www.gfwcruskinwomansclub.org/, or www.facebook.com/RuskinWomansClub/.