The third annual Woman’s Club of Playa del Rey’s (WCPDR) Makers’ Market and collection drive for Food Pantry LAX is set to take place on Saturday, November 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with dozens of vendors ready to show off their creations for sale, live music and food. For a flourishing membership organization of more than 100 women that’s constantly growing, this is just one of the many creative and big-hearted ways the club serves the local community, continuing an 85-year tradition of sisterhood.
Not Your Mom’s Woman’s Club.
Julie Lansing joined the WCPDR in 2016 and now proudly serves as its president. Julie is a first-generation American whose parents came from Mexico for their shot at the American Dream. Witnessing her parents’ hard work and dedication to family and community, she tries to replicate those strong values in her work with the club. After retiring from her career as Director of the Section Eight Housing Program in Santa Monica, it was her hairdresser who invited her to a luncheon.
“I fell in love with that first meeting, and I joined on the spot. I came from a very regulated, structured industry, but I’d always wanted to be an event planner. Joining the Woman’s Club gave me an opportunity to explore my skills in that area. I jumped on the board, and I was one of the first that came up with the concept of having a makers’ market,” says Julie, who’s seen membership at the club nearly double in the last few years–and that’s no accident.
“We’re not your mom’s Woman’s Club! We’re not all blue-haired women who get together just to socialize. We offer so much more now because women want sisterhood, and they want a group that is diverse–diverse in backgrounds, race and our professional careers. When you come to our meetings, you’re going to see that diversity, and you’re going to feel it,” she says.
At any given meeting, members will be sitting at a table with women who are retired, have high-powered careers, are entrepreneurs or work from home.
“You don’t have to be 50, 60 or 70 to join our club or be retired. We’re seeing the influx of younger women,” said Julie. “In fact, we just hosted the baby shower for one of our members. We were so excited! She’s definitely our youngest member and our oldest is 95.”
The group meets monthly (September through June) for a festive luncheon at their clubhouse, which features meeting announcements, a catered lunch, a speaker and a chance to socialize. After the meeting, the women have even been known to stick around for coffee and show off their singing skills with a little karaoke.
In between meetings, the club likes to keep a busy social calendar with a walking group that meets at the beach, coffee dates, sunset picnics in the park and more.
Julie and fellow members love a chance to dress up, especially if a theme is involved, and they’ve had fun being an entry in the Fourth of July Parade. So far, the women have participated as suffragettes, Rosie the Riveter and members of the cast of Baywatch.
A Bit of History.
According to the WCPDR’s historian and Membership Chair Vicki Ohlinger, Woman’s Clubs in the United States date back to the 19th century, when women were starting to organize social groups and fight for causes like the right to vote. As part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs that was founded in 1890, the Playa del Rey chapter started in 1938, making it one of the community’s longest-running organizations. Part of their success is thanks to a local dentist, Dr. Richard Mazurek, who donated the building, located at 8039 W. Manchester Ave., to the club in exchange for a 50-year ground lease. Making the most of goodwill and responsible management, the Woman’s Club of Playa del Rey has their clubhouse on the second floor of the building and collects rent from the three businesses on the first floor.
“Everything is all ours!” says Vicki, proudly.
A retired teacher, Vicki says her work with the group has had many positive impacts on her life, from keeping her busy to making connections.
“It’s helped me gain an incredible network of friends. I know so many women, and we connect in various different ways, either by doing things with the club or socially. If I ever need assistance with anything, I can call on them,” she says.
Helping students go to college.
Hilda Almada-Higgins has been a member of the club for three years and is currently the First Vice President and the Scholarship Committee Chair. A former LAUSD school principal, she now oversees the WCPDR’s mission to help high school students achieve their dream of going to college.
Starting with a plan to give out one $1,000 scholarship to a female student at Westchester High School, Hilda has happily expanded the program–and the scholarship amount–to other schools. Now students from St. Bernard, Saint Mary’s Academy, Notre Dame and Venice High School are also eligible. The money comes from local donors in the community and proceeds from events like their upcoming holiday boutique. This spring, they gave out a whopping $30,000 in scholarships to local girls in need who had at least a 3.0 GPA. They plan to give out at least that much, if not more, this year.
“Giving scholarships to these girls, it just brings so much joy to my heart. We read the stories that they tell us and hear what they’ve been through. It’s just incredible how much they put forth to continue to succeed and excel,” Hilda says.
She recalls a story of one student whose mother unexpectedly passed away.
“She had to go live with an aunt that she hadn’t seen in seven years,” says Hilda. “But she stayed focused and committed to doing well in school. They’re all wonderful girls and we are just so happy to be able to help them to continue their education.”
Events help raise funds for a good cause.
Jan Yoss is the Club’s Philanthropy Chair and oversees the annual Makers’ Market. She says this year’s event is going to be the biggest one yet with lots of opportunities to find the perfect holiday gifts for your friends and family.
“We have 40-plus wonderful, eclectic groups of vendors who will be there. We’ve got people who create everything from jewelry to ceramics; one wonderful woman brings potted succulents, another woman crochets beautiful clothing. And we do have some people who are doing mostly Christmas items,” she says.
Paired with the day of shopping is a collection drive for Food Pantry LAX that helps hundreds of local families in need this holiday season. Last year, they were able to fill the beds of two pickup trucks with food. Their wish list includes items like soup, canned ham, dry cereal, peanut butter, jelly and boxed macaroni and cheese. Typical Thanksgiving staples and monetary donations are also welcomed.
The Field of Flags Memorial Day tribute that takes place in May is another event that the club invites the community to participate in. Flags are sold to raise money for veteran causes and are then displayed along the median in front of the group’s clubhouse on Manchester Ave. The number of flags and the visual impact on passersby continues to grow each year. The club hopes to one day in the near future cover the entire area in red, white and blue.
The club’s goal is to donate at least 20 percent of their yearly revenue to local charities.
An incredible network.
While raising money and giving back gives WCPDR members a sense of purpose, it also bonds the women together in unexpected ways.
“Women want to form friendships with women with shared interests that have big hearts because that’s why they’re joining,” said Julie. “We have something really, really special. And that’s probably what I’m the most proud about. Our club is really a sisterhood.”
Interesting in learning more about this nonprofit membership organization or its events? Visit wcpdr.org for more info.
By Shanee Edwards.