by Wendy Foster
Karyn McCarthy of Naperville is the Illinois director of an organization with a long and prestigious history and a strong commitment to service. General Federation of Women’s Club (GFWC) was founded in 1890 and now has chapters in every state. GFWC IL was chartered in 1895 and is home to close to 200 Women’s Clubs, including 54 Junior Women’s Clubs and seven Juniorette Clubs (for girls ages 13-18). McCarthy serves as the Director of GFWC IL Junior Clubs.
“All of our projects center around helping women and children. That’s the overall mission of the organization,” said McCarthy. “It ranges from helping with literacy issues to fighting domestic violence, domestic abuse and
child abuse. “
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is recognized many achievements including the development of the juvenile court system and the establishment of child labor laws. “Most notably, GFWC clubwomen are credited with establishing over 75% of the nation’s libraries,” said McCarthy. Junior Women’s Clubs were founded in 1935 as a way to attract a younger membership. Members of the Junior Club, McCarthy said, are typically ages 27 and older.
The west suburban area Junior Women’s Clubs work with national organizations on their women and child-related missions, as well as working “very locally”, McCarthy said. “There are different service organizations in each town. Naperville alone has 45 service organizations so we often concentrate on helping those first. Every club wants to be the force within their own community.” The clubs typically help by raising funds as well as participating in service. Naperville Junior Women’s Club helped to launch and operate Safety Town while also working with other not-for profits.
McCarthy said that in addition to the fundraising and service components of membership in the Junior Women’s Clubs, a significant outcome is the strong bonding between women. “I helped to start the Plainfield club about five years ago and it’s grown from five to 75 members. A lot of them didn’t know each other before but have formed great friendships,” she said. “Other directors tell me the same thing. It’s the friendships that form and being appreciative of what they have and share with like-minded women. This makes us a strong organization.” -Wendy Foster