You can hear it from the parking lot. Every month on the second Tuesday, sounds of laughter and exciting chatter spill out of the halls of the Heathrow Country Club as the 115 members of the Heathrow Women’s Club convene for their monthly luncheon.
The meetings are dates Ellen Yeaser, club president, has been looking forward to each month since she first joined the club in 1999 with her mother, Naomi Brooks.
“I was a little shy and relatively new to the area when I joined,” Ellen recall. “I’ve met my best friends through the club. I came to the club because I wanted to give back to the community, and I have felt an incredible sense of fulfillment in the work we have been able to do.”
This year, the Heathrow Women’s Club commemorates 25 years of service and fun. Since its early days, this group of dedicated women has been at the forefront of helping local organizations that assist women and children. In fact, the Heathrow Women’s Club has given about $1 million in contributions, in-kind donations, and volunteer service to Lake Mary nonprofits since its inception.
The club was founded on August 17, 1987 by a few neighborhood women who gathered as friends. A quarter of a century later, the small group has developed into a socially active club and a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with more than 100 members actively participating each year.
The Heathrow Women’s Club currently supports Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, West Sanford Branch; Seminole County Friends of Abused Children; SafeHouse of Seminole’s Daycare/After School Program; and Bags of Hope Central Florida.
“We try to focus on organizations and specific programs that may not necessarily get a huge amount of donations or corporate support,” Ellen explains.
Bags of Hope founder and CEO Rhonda Santolin, whose organization gives needy Seminole County students bags full of food and books to sustain them over the weekends, says that the Heathrow Women’s Club has impacted her organization in many ways.
“They are an official Gold Level Sponsor, which means they are funding 10 children to be in our program for the entire year,” say Rhonda. “In addition to the financial contribution, they are also volunteering at our Kids Group Program once a month, as well as gathering food contributions for our care packages. In running this charity for four years, I have done a lot of talks in the community to many different groups and organizations. To me there are two types – the ones that do and the ones that talk. The Heathrow Women’s Club are the doers!”
Gary W. Cain, president/CPO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, says that the Women’s Club members have devoted much time, talent, and financial backing to the West Sanford Boys & Girls Club Branch. “They have also given much of their personal attention and love to our club members. The women have helped to build a garden, assisted in harvesting the garden, and continue to educate our children on health eating habits thanks to the garden. They give generously at the holidays, ensuring that each and every club member has a present to unwrap, meal to enjoy, and a party to experience that fosters fellowship ans the true spirit of the holidays.
“The Heathrow Women’s Club also lends its time by volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club on a regular basis,” Gary continues. “From cooking classes, to financial literacy seminars, to public speaking workshops, the women are there to teach lessons that will last a lifetime. We are grateful to the Heathrow Women’s Club for all that they do to support children in the local community. They are helping to develop and nurture our leaders of tomorrow.”
The Heathrow Women’s Club has plenty of fun,too, and offers a multitude of activities to fill up any calendar. These include a book club, bridge, bunco, canasta, and mah-jongg. Evening activities for singles and couples include wine tasting, dine-a-rounds, and happy hour socials.
Special 25th anniversary celebrations and fundraisers are continuing well into next year. On December 11, the club will host its annual Holiday Bake Sale, a fundraiser that cookie and cake lovers throughout Lake Mary eagerly anticipate. On February 12, 2013, the club will have its Purse Silent Auction, featuring brand-new or barely-used purses from members. On April 13, the club will host its gala at the Heathrow Racquet Club, with a luau theme, “An Evening in Paradise.”
All of the fundraisers are fun in their own right, but they truly exist to finance the support the club offers to its chosen nonprofits.
“Every May, our nonprofit partners attend our club meeting, and we present the checks to the organizations,” says Ellen. “One of my fondest memories was hearing a young adult who received assistance from Friends of Abuse Children speak about how our donations to the organization affected this person’s life.”
Ellen is aware of one of the biggest misconceptions about the Heathrow Women’s Club.
“Many people think you have to live in Heathrow or be a member of Heathrow Country Club in order to be part of our club,” Ellen emphasizes. “That’s not true. We welcome all women.”
In fact, Heathrow Women’s Club members live in Lake Forest, Buckingham Estates, Magnolia Plantation, Longwood, Casselberry, throughout Seminole County, and even in Orlando.
General luncheons are held at the Heathrow Country Club the second Tuesday of each month from September to May. Dues are just $75 for the entire year. Of those dues, $25 goes to cover the club’s administrative costs, and $50 is put straight into the club’s charity fund.
“We encourage our members to support our fundraising projects, but you don’t have to contribute at a certain level to be part of the club,” Ellen explains. “All the money we raise stays local. To hear the people we have helped speak about the impact our club has made on their lives is just incredible. You can’t even express it. You’ve got to be there to experience it.”
Interested local businesses are invited to consider sponsoring the Heathrow Women’s Club and its numerous activities. In exchange, the club can promote the company’s logo on its website. include company information in its mailers, or more.
To join in the fun, visit www.HeathrowWomensClub.com and download a membership form. You’ll be in for at least another 25 years of great times and good works.
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.