Individuals from various clubs from across Arkansas will converge in downtown Fort Smith to continue their efforts to lift others and make a positive difference in their communities.
The Northwest Region of Women, Youth and Young Adult clubs will host its annual Arkansas state meeting in Fort Smith. While many of the events will be limited to club members, two events — an awards banquet and a mass meeting — will be open to the public. The mass meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. June 9, and the awards banquet will be held at 7 p.m. June 9. Both events will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton Fort Smith City Center, 700 Rogers Ave.
"Our motto is, 'Lifting as we climb,'" said Patricia Hardy, president of the Northwest Region, which is made up of both clubs in Fort Smith — the Phyllis Wheatley Club, established in 1901, and the Fidelity Women's Club, established in 1954. "In our organization, we help women, children, anyone who is in need of our help.
"Our club does get together, and we take water down to the Next Step program, and we also mentor elementary school girls," Hardy added. "If someone needs help, if they need clothes or food, or if they need a place to stay because someone's house burned down, we try to help them with all of that."
Heather Woodard, vice president of public relations for H and L Partners, will serve as guest speaker for the awards banquet. Woodard's presentation will serve as a source of inspiration and motivation to all of those who are present for the event, said Hardy.
"Not only is Heather my cousin, but Heather is a great person who will give great insight to women," she said. "I believe that Heather is going to talk about helping others and lifting others.
"And Heather's mother and father live in Fort Smith; her mom is Deborah and her father is George," Hardy added. "They moved here to Fort Smith from Kansas City, Mo., and I believe that Heather graduated in Kansas City."
Jannia Robinson Green, state historian and member of the Fidelity Women's Club in Fort Smith, said she and other club members are "thrilled" to have Heather Woodard speak at the awards banquet.
"I'm really excited about all of this," Robinson Green said. "Our Arkansas Association of Women's Clubs is affiliated with the National Association of Federated Women's Clubs.
"The national club was established in 1896 in Washington, D.C.," she added. "There are lots of other sororities and clubs around, but this was the first club —the very first club — to be organized for women of color."
The awards banquet will be among numerous bright spots in the convention, which will be held June 8-10, Hardy said.
"We know the room for the awards banquet holds 125 people, so we would love to have 125 people attend the banquet," she said. "I know that the state president will give awards to outstanding club members.
"The awards usually are plaques, so it will be a fun evening," added Hardy, who has been in her club since 2010.
Tickets for the banquet are $35 and can be purchased by calling Hardy at (479) 652-3920 and Felicia Smith at (479) 719-2109. The deadline to purchase tickets is Thursday.
"Our club also gives out scholarships to high school kids," Hardy said. "We've given $500 scholarships before. We do one a year, and some of the other clubs around the state give scholarships that range from $500 to $1,000."
According to Robinson Green, the clubs were designed to "lift the standards of the home and family" in an effort to improve communities.
"We want to help improve the quality of life for all people," she said.
Like Hardy, Robinson Green said she is proud that her club mentors young students at Spradling, Howard and Trusty elementary schools, among other schools.
"We go in and spend an hour with the girls, and they have gone to Little Rock to the state capitol; they have served as pages during sessions at Little Rock," Robinson Green said. "It's nice being a positive role model for the kids. You can't imagine how it has developed some of their personalities. The ones who were bashful have learned to stand before people and speak. They have learned to be leaders."
A large part of the motivation for Hardy's club stems from the camaraderie felt among members, who try to meet once a month at the McGill Center or the Fort Smith Public Library's main location.
"As soon as they got me in the club, they made me the club president," Hardy said with a laugh. "But seriously, I love doing this. I love helping people. And, for us, it's a lot of fun."
Editor's note: This article has been edited from its original version.