ELMHURST – Women of all ages have been bettering their communities for 15 years through the Elmhurst Junior Women’s Club, but members say the group has done just as much for them as it has for its philanthropies.
“I joined really to meet people and give back to the community,” said Dena Fasheh, EJWC president-elect. “From that, I gained friendships. I gained mom advice.”
It’s a sentiment repeated over and over. Members join to give back, but they seem to stay because of the friendships they make.
“I don’t ever want to quit,” said Gena Medema, co-chairwoman of the group’s Ways and Means Committee.
An Elmhurst resident for nearly 20 years, Medema joined EJWC about a decade ago. Her co-chairwoman, Christine Lucenta, joined two years ago, but the women say their experience and age differences strengthen their bonds.
“We have people that are at different stages in their lives,” Lucenta said. She teaches Medema new technology skills, and in turn, Medema shows her the Elmhurst community.
“These are people you all have similar qualities to, so it’s a natural thing that you’re going to also be friends,” said Dierdre Wicklow, 11-year member and president.
The common interests that bridge the age gap revolve around community service.
On May 10, the EJWC hosted its eighth Tickled Pink boutique event. Women and girls of all ages gathered for an ultimate girls’ night at the Diplomat West to meet Miss Illinois, shop and win raffle prizes.
Local businesses and residents donated 41 gift baskets for raffle prizes, and EJWC members collected $20 for every adult ticket and $5 for every child younger than 10. The group sold more than 300 adult tickets and 100 child tickets.
The $8,000 in proceeds went to the Breast Center of Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare and the EJWC scholarship fund. The past eight Tickled Pink events have raised more than $58,000.
“We’ve definitely noticed over the past couple years these charities need our help more than ever,” said Wicklow, admitting it’s hard to imagine a severe need in Elmhurst, but she has seen the need grow among neighbors since the recession.
Every year, members vote on where to contribute. They even host a forum to meet representatives from interested charities, but they are always local – either Elmhurst- or DuPage County-based.
“It’s really great that members have an active hand in choosing,” Lucenta said.
With 50 members and now 15 years of history, the EJWC remains a pliable organization. Constant member input allows it to allocate funds as needs change, but also to restructure meetings for the modern woman. Formally getting together in a public place like the library, members now often meet at one of their homes over snacks.
While Wicklow has seen many changes during her time in EJWC, she points to one aspect that endures the new jobs, new families and new roles women experience throughout life. The EJWC community adjusts, but is always there.
“Things happen in everyone’s lives,” she said. “We’re always here as a constant.”