Lake Wales Women’s Club Raises Funds At Spaghetti Dinner For Children’s Healthcare
by James Coulter
Nothing inspires a great big smile more than slurping a long, saucy noodle from a homemade plate of spaghetti. The only thing better is being able to enjoy such a great spaghetti dinner while raising funds to help fix the smiles of countless children around the world.
More than a hundred Lake Wales residents were able to do exactly that as they attended a spaghetti dinner hosted by the Lake Wales Women’s Club on Friday evening to raise money for a global children’s foundation.
For only $7.50, guests could grab themselves a plate of spaghetti topped with homemade tomato sauce and meatballs with a side of garlic bread, along with a small side salad and several dozen desserts to choose from. For an additional $2, they could enjoy their meal with a glass of wine.
By offering this small town a taste of Italy, the Women’s Club was able to raise proceeds from the meal to go towards Smiles Across Miles, a program part of the non-profit organization, Operation Smile.
The organization helps fund the medical operations for facial reconstructive surgery for both children and some adults, many of whom suffer from disfigured faces due to illness or accident, ensuring that they are able to offer the best smiles after their surgery.
Being able to raise money for such a great cause, as well as cater to the local community, is more than reward enough for the volunteers who helped out with the dinner than evening, explained Jessica Bray, president of the Women’s Club.
The Lake Wales Women’s Club, which was first created in 1913, has been hosting these dinners once or twice a year for the past 15 to 20 years. So long have they done this event that they have perfected coordinating it to a tee, Bray said.
Each year, more than 25 to 30 pounds of spaghetti are cooked to serve the hungry participants. Even then, being able to anticipate how many people will show up proves to be quite the challenge, she said.
This year, the sales at the door appeared to supersede the sale of tickets prior to the event, with up to 200 people potentially arriving that evening, she said.
“[We love being able] to continue to provide this particular event because it is so well appreciated by the community, and it is all done with volunteer help,” she said. “We do enjoy it. It is a nice clubhouse, and we all love to cook because it is fun.”
Mary Walkup, the secretary of the membership committee, has been with the Women’s Club for a little more than a year. She enjoys participating within the various community projects that her organization hosts, including volunteer work with Spook Hill Elementary, Lake Wales Care Center, and American Legion.
Currently, their biggest obstacle is with their membership, specifically with bringing in new members to replenish the older ones.
“Our biggest problem right now are membership,” she said. “A lot of the women who work with us are older women, and they can no longer participate, so we are struggling to get younger members who can get more involved with what we do.”
Though she did not see a greater response that evening than at previous events, she noticed quite a few many walk-ins. This more than inspired her confidence that her organization would meet their goal, having pledged $2,500 to donate towards Operation Smile, she said.
Fran Hanrahan has been with the organization since 1994. She enjoys being able to volunteer for such events that give back to her community and help raise funds for such great causes.
“I like working for an organization that does things for the community,” she said. “So much fun to see everyone come in and say it’s so good and raise money for our cause.”
During her time, she has held many positions from president to district manager. Having been with the organization for as long as she has, she has seen this particular event get bigger and better every year.
“We have got it down really good,” she said. “We are accustomed to putting it together and putting it on. Our reputation proceeds us. Our sauce is outstanding, and the causes are notable.”