Women find power in organizations


Women have always known numbers count, and they find support, inspiration, and friendship working together. In this area of Central Florida, a variety of organizations are available to women and they all are community minded, widening that community to include the world.

Altrusa International, Lake County

Altrusa is an organization that works together for the benefit of others. The international nonprofit organization aims to make local communities better through leadership, partnership, and service. District Three is based in Lake County, meeting the second and fourth Thursdays of each month in Leesburg at Rogers Park in Venetian Gardens. The meeting on the fourth Thursday always features a speaker.

District Three has about 25 members, and many of them are working women. These women volunteer continually. Each month when they sign in for the meeting, they list their volunteer hours since the previous meeting.

Their latest project is gathering materials, such as personal hygiene items and intimate apparel, for the Days for Girls nonprofit organization. They’re also working on donations for the damage in their district from Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

“They’re saying now it could be three to five years before everything is rebuilt,” President Julia Allen says.

Shannon Schell is running for governor of District Three.

Julia Allen

“I’ve been a member for 20 years and I never thought I’d be a lifer,” Shannon says. “We are a club that also has younger members because we’ve done succession planning. Some clubs are dying because they’re not actively seeking members. I have flourished here. This group has brought great skills to me.”

“I started coming to meetings in 2008 and my primary reason was networking, because I own my own business,” member Nancy Schwartz says. “But I saw faces of women I recognized as leaders in this community. They were kind, generous, and down to earth.”

Nancy says she has attracted business because of her association with the group but, most importantly, she has helped others in the group get business.

“This group is run professionally yet everybody is a volunteer,” she adds. “We’re here to do a good thing for our community and for ourselves as individuals.”

Julia says the group originally was based on the Rotary International concept but has grown into its own program and vision. Altrusa was founded by Mamie L. Bass in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1917. Altrusa also allows men to join. Get more information at altrusa.org.

General Federation of Women’s Clubs

General Federation of Women’s Club is an organization that originally was founded because journalist Jane Cunningham Croly was not allowed to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring novelist Charles Dickens. The club’s only reason for refusing her admittance was her sex. 

An angry woman often takes action, as Jane did. She formed Sorosis in 1868. The definition of Sorosis is “a woman’s club.” This led to her inviting women throughout the United States to come together. A convention in New York City led to the formation of the General Federation of Women’s Club on April 24, 1890, and ratification of the GFWC’s constitution. Today, there are 80,000 members working together for the betterment of their communities.

GFWC Mount Dora Woman’s Club

Judith Shepp is president of GFWC Mount Dora, which was organized in 1919, and the group is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. 

“We started with 14 women and within a year we had 60 members,” Judith says. “We took over finances for the public library and did that until the 1950s.”

Judith says the club was instrumental in getting John Donnelly to donate the land for Donnelly Park. 

“Our work includes arts, education, home life, international outreach, and public issues,” Judith says. “Our big project now is getting 500 books to second-graders in Sorrento Elementary, Round Lake Charter School, and Spring Creek Charter School. We’ll give them the books the last week of school.”

In 1990, the group gathered 1,000 volunteers and built the Gilbert Park Playground in one week. Members also volunteer with the local theaters—Bay Street Players and IceHouse Theatre—and at the concession stand at the Bay Hill Club Classic. The club’s conservation project was planting trees in Seminole State Forest. 

GFWC Mount Dora is now 52 members strong, and they continually provide help in any way they can to their community and internationally.


WOAMTEC is an organization whose acronym stands for Women on a Mission to Earn Commission, a networking group for businesswomen. Members are involved in commissioned sales only and gather for networking and sharing knowledge with one another. Their priorities couldn’t be clearer: “faith, family, career without feeling guilty about it.”

WOAMTEC has chapters all over the United States, with more starting all the time, and Joanne Murray is executive director of the chapter in The Villages.

“We take pride in the fact that we are a networking group for entrepreneurial women and a few good men,” Joanne says. “Our members want to build their business, and we focus on relationships to do that. Once you get the trust and establish a relationship, the business will come.”

At meetings, members can showcase their businesses, and occasionally the group will have a guest speaker for educating small businesses.

One way this group differs from others is that the seats are exclusive. Joanne is a payroll specialist. That means no one else in the group can enter with that category. As an executive director, however, she can provide information and training to help another payroll specialist start a group in another area, which is what she did recently. A new group will start having meetings in June in Mount Dora.

“My main job is building the group,” Joanne says. “We recently had our first networking event with the other chapters in Ocala and were expecting 30 to 40 women. We had 75 women show up! I got five memberships for my chapter.”

Our members want to build their business, and we focus on relationships to do that. Once you get the trust and establish a relationship, the business will come.” — Joanne Murray

To join WOAMTEC, you must file an application (found on the website) and send it to Joanne, who will conduct an interview. If the fit is good for you and for the group, she will send the application to the head office of WOAMTEC in Texas. After that, the new member will receive a welcome letter and instructions for getting on the website and establishing a presence.

“We let members advertise on our Facebook page, which means they get promotion on a national level,” Joanne says. “We are actively looking for members, for people we can partner with. I always encourage members to bring a guest to visit our group, too.”

For more information, see woamtec.com, locate The Villages chapter and email Joanne.

GFWC Umatilla Woman’s Club

When a group of civic-minded women saw a need for a public library in Umatilla, they came together and formed the GFWC Umatilla Woman’s Club. The library was established in 1917, and the Woman’s Club was established in 1920 to better promote civic projects and their city. 

Carol Olson says the club helps the community by focusing on many public issues, including art, conservation, education, home life, and international outreach.

“I joined because I felt the Umatilla Woman’s Club is dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service,” Carol says. “This was a good way for me to become active in my community and enjoy the fellowship of like-minded women.”

Some of the club’s projects are working with Umatilla High School, scholarships, and Youth Are Contest. The club regularly donates to Alee Academy Charter High School, Slaves No More, Trout Lake, Project Graduation, Habitat for Humanity, Umatilla Museum, LovExtension, Deliver the Difference, Lake County Humane Society, the Open Door, Heifer International, and many others.

For more information, write GFWC Umatilla Woman’s Club, P.O. Box 704, Umatilla, FL 32784 or email umatillagfwc@yahoo.com. A member will contact you.

Wildwood Women’s Club

This group was founded in May 1945 and at one time had more than 100 members. Roslyn Davidson is the current president of the club and is proud of its work in the Wildwood community.

“We have a history of being involved in Wildwood, and every year we give two scholarships to students at Wildwood High School,” Roslyn says. “We’re small now but aware of doing our part for the community.”

The group is also very involved with the historic Baker House in Wildwood. Every year, members decorate a room for the Christmas holidays.

“We think of this room as our room,” Roslyn says. “I talk to Carlton Baker every year, and he tells me a story. We decorate according to what he says in the story.”

The Wildwood Women’s Club meets at 6:15pm the fourth Monday of each month at the American Legion Hall, 401 E. State Road 44, Wildwood. For information, contact Roslyn at 352.457.4936 or Tanya Michaels at 352.461.3206.

GFWC Woman’s Club of Leesburg

When asked why she became a member of the Woman’s Club of Leesburg, Lynn Klaczak says, “I wanted to no longer look inward at myself but look outward toward service and do it in a variety of ways.”

The 37 members of GFWC Leesburg meet at 10am the second Monday from September through May at the Salvation Army Leesburg, 2605 South St. They have a business meeting, discuss volunteer activities, and then enjoy a speaker.

Some of their worthy projects include Guardian ad Litem Angel Tree at Christmas, the Leesburg Heritage Society, the Police Bikes for Kids program, and bringing microwaveable and nonperishable food to schools so children can eat on weekends and during summers when they’re unable to get school meals. They also do backpacks with school supplies for elementary schools and holiday food baskets.

“We also do little things like collecting the pull tabs off tin cans,” Lynn says. “The Ronald McDonald House can recycle these for cash, the state project is Operation Smile, and our international program is Heifer International (and) Mercy Ships.”

I wanted to no longer look inward at myself but look outward toward service and do it in a variety of ways.” — Lynn Klaczak

To join, a woman must attend two meetings to see if GFWC Leesburg is a good fit for her. The group encourages everyone to keep up with their projects on their Facebook page, which has photos of many of their activities, events, and projects. Their page is GFWC Leesburg.

“We’re a diverse group of women who have lived all over,” Lynn says. “The women come from a variety of industries, including entrepreneurs, homemakers, and local government.”

GFWC Woman’s Clubs also has chapters in Clermont, Lake Dora Area, South Lake, The Villages, Central Florida, and Wildwood. Go to gfcwflorida.com/district-7/ for information on how to contact these groups. For information about the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, see gfwc.org

In the U.S. armed forces today, 14% of those serving are women.

The Young Women’s Christian Association, orYWCA,believed to be the oldest and largest multicultural women’s organization in the world, came after the Relief Society in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Boston was the first city to use the name YWCA in 1859.

70% of mothers today with children under 18 are employed.

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt.

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs has research collections of the Women’s History and Resource Center, which include documents and artifacts of historical significance to the organization’s mission. GFWC began collecting these items in 1890.

TheNational Council of Negro Women Inc. was organized in1935and promotes education, encourages entrepreneurship, financial literacy, economic stability, good health, civic engagement, and public policy consistent with traditional values.

Girl Scouts was organized March 12, 1912,by Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia.

The National Woman Suffrage Association, formed May 15, 1869, helped women get the right to vote, among many other activist actions.

Promoting, developing, and supporting the growth of Latina businesses is the mission of National Latina Business Women Association.

GFWC Umatilla Woman’s Club wanted to help its progressive community, which had its own electric company, ice plant, and telephone service in the early 1900s.

In 1914 the Woman’s Club of Leesburg met with city officials to get cows and chickens off the dirt streets, find a way to block flies coming from the livery, and build a high wall in front of the privies.