New Dominion Women’s Club celebrated its 40th anniversary in June and recommitted itself to its three core principles: philanthropy, fellowship and fun.
The McLean organizations’s intensely local focus is what prompted club president Jennifer Salopek to join in December 2005.
“I liked the feeling that I was making a difference in my own back yard,” said Salopek, a freelance journalist.
McLean resident Pam Elder joined two years ago so she could help others in the community.
“You can volunteer and read in the school systems,” Elder said. “It’s not just the social fluff.”
The group began in 1968 as the eight-member Junior Women’s Club of McLean. It achieved “general” status and its current name in 1991 and became a 501 (c) 3 non-profit in 2000.
The club meets at the McLean Community Center on the third Monday of each month between September and May. The group has 76 active members, ranging from ages 30 to 45, who pay annual dues of $50. Membership is open to people 18 and older.
Prospective-member nights and open houses aren’t enough to boost club membership and participation, Salopek said. The club’s recruiting efforts are much more successful when members bring friends and acquaintances to events.
“Personal networking is the key,” said Salopek, who brought in 10 new members last year. “It’s really filled a need in me.”
Club leaders surveyed members two years ago and learned that they desired more short-term, hands-on volunteering efforts.
The organization also delivers food once per month with Meals on Wheels and, on a quarterly basis, cleans up Westmoreland Street between Chain Bridge and Kirby roads and tutors young people with the Reading Is Fundamental program.
To be more considerate of members’ time, the club began holding more daytime activities and consolidating its night meetings. Club members did not clamor, however, for events involving their spouses and children, Salopek said.
“It’s a thing they do for themselves,” she said. “It’s a source of personal pride, a sense of accomplishment and contributing.”
Club members need not meet strict attendance and participation requirements.
“One year you can be very involved and the next year not at all,” Erika Keough, who last year served as the club’s second vice president. “You’ve got the flexibility to do that. It’s what keeps people coming back.”
Keough said it was important to her that all funds raised would be disbursed to local groups.
The club during the past fiscal year raised $9,000, which was 38 percent above its goal. Each year, the club helps two organizations related to each of its three committees: Health and Home Life, Education and Conservation, and Arts.
The club this year gave $1,300 apiece to Reading Is Fundamental, the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, Education for Independence, SHARE Inc., Langley Residential Services, McLean Project for the Arts and the Alden Theatre Sunday Summer Concert Series.
For the past two years, the club has held fund-raisers for the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure event to cure breast cancer and supported a children’s tent at McLean Project for the Arts’ ArtFest in October.
McLean resident Carol Brunner, who joined the club a year ago, said she hopes the group will do more work with animal-rescue organizations. Brunner said she likes the club’s flexible participation rules.
“It’s just a different kind of organization than Junior League, which has a time commitment beyond what I could ever do,” she said.
Salopek said she hopes the club will continue attracting new members, despite the ongoing recession.
“A hundred determined women in McLean can make a lot of difference,” she said.
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