Raise your hand if you imagine that a meeting of the Satellite Beach Woman’s Club involves a lot of sitting and knitting, sandwiches and tea.
Now imagine a quiet, calm force for positive change in Satellite Beach and beyond, and you’ll be on the right track.
Any beachsider who has enjoyed the playground equipment at DeSoto Park or appreciated the paved lot at Pelican Beach Park has encountered the work of the SBWC. If your school-age children have been mentored; if their teachers have been given supplies; if you have ever played the piano, watched the clock, enjoyed a movie or saluted the city flag at the Scotty Culp Municipal Complex, you’ve benefited from these ladies’ love of their community.
A handful of club members gathered recently at the Satellite Beach Public Library to decorate a Christmas tree and light a menorah, a tradition they say dates back to the founding of the library itself. It was a low-key affair, and one of the smaller contributions the 68-member group makes to the community.
Rebecca Castillo, Roma Carlisle, Carol Late, Maryann Risi and Ann Kintigh arrived and got to work bringing holiday cheer to the children’s section of the library. President Margaret Brugman was unable to attend because of a death in her family.
An everlasting evergreen was unpacked from its cardboard box and a plastic tub of ornaments soon were glinting and swaying among the branches. Most of the ornaments are store-bought but pretty.
“We used to meet at someone’s house and make our own ornaments, remember?” Late asked the others, adding, “We had clear ornaments and we would fill them. What a mess!”
Late came dressed for the job in a sweater that could be described as Florida Christmas chic: a beach scene of seagulls and pelicans flying in with wrapped gifts in their bills and a snowman dressed in a flowered shirt and sunglasses.
The five women spoke of the club and their reasons for joining, with the most common being a desire to serve the community.
Castillo, past president and General Federation of Women’s Clubs Florida District 6 director, has been a member for about 10 years.
“One of my neighbors asked me if I would like to join and I went to a few meetings and found them very interesting. I wanted to do some community service and get involved,” she said.
She noted one of the club’s civic projects was right outside the library’s doors.
“We are working with the city and the library to get native plants in the ground to help beautify the library. This is a project of our conservation chairman, Carol Robitschek,” she said.
Risi says she is the second-newest member. “I’m a retired teacher. I went to the first meeting and there were so many activities I could join and so many creative things I could do for the community that I stayed,” she said as she hung a red bulb on a branch.
Kintigh, whom all agreed does not look 83, has been a member for 27 of those years. Fans of the Satellite Beach Founders Day parade may know her by her 1964 silver stingray Corvette.
“I’ve been in the parade for 28 years,” said the 50-year Satellite Beach resident.
Carlisle joined SBWC six years ago. “I was looking for ways to help the community and do some service, some volunteer work for this and that. And to make friends,” she said.
The Satellite Beach chapter was founded in 1964 and is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs International. Founded in 1868, the United States GFWC is made up of 8,500 clubs with 350,000 members.
Locally, the club’s other contributions include raising $3,000 to repair dune crossovers, donating two tracheal intubation kits to the Fire Department, furnishing the game room at the David R. Schechter Community Center, raising money for Satellite High band uniforms, purchasing the emergency call button at Hightower Beach Park and donations to dozens of charities, including Daily Bread, Serene Harbor, Florida Wildlife Hospital, Hacienda Girls Ranch and Special Olympics.
“It’s a great club. You can pick which charities you want to work for. I belong to the International Committee. At our Christmas party, we had an auction and we raised $450 to pay the yearly salary of a teacher in Haiti,” Late said, adding, “that reminds you of how many people need our help.”
Story by: Cynthia Van Gaasbeck