For the last 51 years, Western Welcome Club of Arizona has supported the Lake Havasu City community through their philanthropic mission to provide for those who have a need.
What started out as a welcoming club that introduced new residents to the surrounding businesses in their community developed into lending more support through charitable contributions to other local organizations.
Current WWCA President Barbara “Barb” Smith says the group was considered Havasu’s first elite club and was widely recognized by the local community. Over the years, due to less interest from younger-aged residents, Smith says the group has had trouble increasing their membership levels. This has resulted in some of the fundraisers held by WWCA, like their Secondhand Rose Fashion Show, to be placed on hold. Presently, around 145 members are a part of the group.
“We don’t have it anymore. It was a lot of work,” Smith said of WWCA’s fashion show fundraiser. “If we could get younger members involved, that would help. As our members get older, it’s too hard to do some of those things.”
Former WWCA president, Clairdell Ross, notes that at one point in time, the group did have young businesswomen who had joined as they were beginning their own small businesses.
“One happened to be a hairdresser,” Ross added. “She got a lot of business from the Western Welcome just by taking the time out of her day to come into the meetings and get acquainted.”
Another challenge that Smith sees within the group is the issue of creating new fundraisers that will draw in more support from the community they serve. Karin French, who serves on WWCA’s audit committee, agrees that it can be difficult to find a balance between a fundraiser that sounds appealing versus the labor that is required to sustain it.
“You kind of have to weigh if it’s worth the effort. Not just the cost of putting it on, but all of the hours that go into it,” French continued. “We constantly talk about this. We want to make this but are we really going to get the money back out of it to make it worthwhile?”
One of WWCA’s larger fundraisers is their annual holiday boutique that is normally held on the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year, as Smith states, the boutique is set for a two-day weekend sale at the local aquatic center. It will run on Friday, November 18 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, November 19 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Everything there is handmade,” Smith said. “We’re known for our Christmas trees that range from two to about four feet tall. All you do is plug them in and you’re ready to go.”
Another part of WWCA is their crafting group that meets at the aquatic center every Wednesday. Smith notes that the next meetings will not resume until the first week of September due to the group taking a break for the summer months. The crafting group, which is made up of 25 to 30 crafters, supplies the holiday boutique with their handmade crafts.
In previous years, the boutique has been known to make up to $25,000 in sales. Last year, Smith says that despite generating $12,000 in sales, the group was still proud of the money they were able to raise.
“Even during covid, we continued and held it with masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer,” Smith added. “We kept it going because otherwise we’d have no money to donate. That is our biggest fundraiser.”
Ross, who served as president in 2000 and has held her WWCA membership since the early 1990s, says that the dip in sales might have to do with an increase of businesses that now sell holiday decor to residents.
“There weren’t that many places to buy Christmas decorations, so people would come there and they would flock immediately,” Ross continued. “We had very talented and artistic people. I think we did so well because there wasn’t that much competition in town.”
Some of the local organizations that have received the money raised during WWCA’s fundraisers have included Military Moms, Western Arizona Humane Society, Dementia Connection, H.A.V.E.N. and Veterans Treatment Court.
“Some of [the organizations] are other nonprofits,” Smith said. “Their missions are so important to us and to our community that we just donate that money to them.”
At the monthly meetings that are held on the second Tuesday at Shugrue’s, speakers are invited to address the group of women about their organizations and the services they provide to the community. French notes that since becoming a new member in April of last year, she has found each of the speakers to be insightful.
“I know more about Lake Havasu now that I’ve been here less than two years than I knew about my community in Oklahoma from these meetings,” French described. “The search and rescue guys come, the Clothes Closet, the children’s association. It’s so informative of what’s going on right next door to you.”
Ross agrees with the notion that the speakers at their monthly meetings lend WWCA more information about other organizations who could be receiving their help.
“Our speakers that we have every single month [are people] from the community that can give us information. Perhaps, we can help that particular individual,” Ross said. “Whether it’s Hospice of Havasu or the humane society. It makes us familiar with what’s here in town.”
One instance that Smith speaks on occurred when she was unaware of what services were provided in the building that is located directly behind Shugrue’s. After speaking with the woman who manages the building’s organization, Smith says she was delighted to find out it was the Arizona’s Children Association. As a result of having AzCA as one of the speakers for the group, WWCA was able to provide the young adults from their foster care programs with holiday gifts this past Christmas.
“We took the oldest kids who are 16 to 21 year olds who are still in foster care in some way and decided that we would get Christmas presents for those young adults,” Smith said. “Already this year, we’ve gone back and said, ‘We want the older kids again but could you add some younger ones in, too?’ because we kind of missed doing the younger ones.”
Although WWCA has shifted to providing more financial contributions to the Havasu community over the years, Ross still believes that the nonprofit has kept their original friendship tradition.
“This was the kind of place [where] we became super good friends. [We] shared each other’s happinesses, sadnesses and that’s why I’m still here,” Ross added. “It’s a friendship organization that makes their money and donates back to the community.”
To learn more about Western Welcome Club of Arizona, call (928) 412-2405.