Mature Living Special Section: Semiahmoo Ladies Club aims to serve community

Published on Wed, Feb 9, 2011 by By Tara Nelson

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Semiahmoo Ladies Club members MaryHelen Windell, l., and Judy Trefen, c., share a laugh and a cup of coffee at the home of co-president JoAnn Howe. Howe, who has spent much of her life working for non-profit organizations, said the club was not only a great way to stay in touch with the community in her retirement but a way to give back to the community in which she lives. “Blaine is our home,” she said.  Photo by Tara Nelson

When JoAnn Howe moved to Blaine from Colorado two years ago, she was looking for a way to get connected to the community.

After doing some research online, she came across the Semiahmoo Ladies Club and asked to join even though she was not a resident of Semiahmoo.

For Howe, it was not only a way to socialize and meet new people, but a way to network and serve the community that she lives in. 

Now, as the club’s most recentl president she said she wants to change some of the perceptions the community might have.
“To some, the Semiahmoo Ladies Club may seem like a group of social butterflies who stay behind their gates, eat Bon Bons and gossip about unknown things and people but we want people to know that’s not true – at least not entirely,” she said.

While the club’s members can often be spotted having a friendly chat over a cup of coffee at Semiahmoo Resort, for many, membership is not just about socializing; it’s a way to make sure many of the needs of local non-profits are met.

Last year, the club raised more than $5,800 in donations that were given to local organizations such as the Blaine food bank, the Boys & Girls Club, the Blaine Community Assistance Program, the Pacific Arts Association (for jazz camp scholarships), Stafholt Good Samaritan Center, the historic Plover ferry, and Blaine’s annual Wings Over Water birding festival, to name a few. Additionally, one of the club’s members organized the Boys & Girls Club auction at Semiahmoo last year.

“I think people may have a misconception that all we do is get together and socialize,” Howe said. “And while that’s a part of what we do, it is also a way for us to share information about what’s going on in Blaine and find out what the community’s needs are.

“Blaine is our home and we want to respond to the needs, fundraisers and auctions that are going on.”

Howe said she got involved with the Semiahmoo Ladies’ Club in April of 2009 after moving to Blaine from Denver, Colorado. She said she had spent much of her life working for non-profits, including the Children’s Advocacy Center, a group that helps children who are victims of violent crimes or recovering from abuse.

Now retired and living near Loomis Trail Golf Course, Howe still volunteers with the Animals As Natural Therapy non-profit in Ferndale (the executive director of which, Sonja Wingard, was the guest speaker for their January luncheon).

“It was important to me that the group was philanthropic,” she said. “I had been thinking, ‘How can I meet people and get involved in the community?’ So I just called and invited myself to their luncheon. Two years later, I was voted in as the president.”

The group was formed in 1992 with its membership including women from Semiahmoo, Blaine, Custer and Birch Bay. Shortly after forming, the group created a fund to donate a $1,000 scholarship each year to female seniors graduating from Blaine high school. As their membership and scholarship donations increased, they branched out to create scholarships for both male and female seniors from Blaine. Howe said though their membership has grown since then, their main purpose is still philanthropic. 

Last fall, for example, when Brent Brentnall of the Blaine Community Assistance Program learned the cupboards of a local food pantry were bare, he called the Semiahmoo Ladies’ Club for help. The group quickly jumped to action, putting a notice on their website and sending messages to its members to donate food. Within a short period of time, their shelves were full.
And each year, during Christmas time, the group will bring in a box of tags from Stafholt’s Giving Tree program to hand out during lunch.

“Our members will walk out of the luncheon with several tags,” Howe said. “Among all of us, we usually take at least one full tree’s worth.”

 “We are quite certain that there is not one person in Blaine, Birch Bay or Semiahmoo who has not in some way been touched by the Semiahmoo Ladies Club. Over the years the club has dispersed over $126,000 to those organizations.”

The club has also scheduled a Valentine’s Day cocktail party from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, February 18, at the Semiahmoo Resort’s San Juan ballroom. The event will include a cash bar, dinner buffet, dessert and coffee, as well as live music and dancing to the band “Double Trouble.” Admission is $25.

The Semiahmoo Ladies’ Club meets monthly at the Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club or at the Semiahmoo Resort. Most of their meetings are luncheons and include an informational guest speaker from the community. Past speakers have included Village Book’s co-owner Dee Robinson, who shares her summer reading list each spring, and Port of Bellingham commissioner Jim Jorgensen, of Blaine. Membership dues are $40 a year, but most events are open to the public.

Their Wednesday morning coffee meet-up is open to the public and meets at 10 a.m. every Wednesday at Semiahmoo Resort’s Starbuck’s coffee bar inside the gift shop.

For more information, call 393-4804 or 306-5529.