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Women's luncheon transforms into fundraiser for others

Eight retirees collect $11,000 for My Little Waiting Room in latest Celebration of the Creche

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of the Celebration of the Creche group gathered last summer to make ceramic heart ornaments that helped decorate their recent fundraising party and also are being sold to raise money for My Little Waiting Room at two Providence hospitals. The women are (from left): Linda Haskins, Sandy Visse, Sue McClung, Nancy Dardis, Robin Case and MaryK Eilers.A group of eight local woman working far outside the spotlight recently raised about $11,000 for a local charity.

The women, with the help of wider circle of friends, collected the money for Providence Health & Services My Little Waiting Room through donations and a silent auction during their annual Celebration of the Creche at a local residential community center on Dec. 6.

The core group – or “board” – of retirees hosted the party for about 100 of their friends.

It was the group’s largest fundraiser in a decade of such events and the first to include an auction. The theme was “A Giving Heart” and board members decorated the venue with hearts, including ceramic ornaments given to party guests and also being sold at the drop-in child care centers at Providence’s St. Vincent and Portland hospitals through the holidays to raise additional money for the program.

This all started simply. The women originally got together for lunch during the Christmas season in a purely social gathering and exchanged gifts, often with a nativity (or creche) theme.

But 11 years ago while giving each other presents, the women started talking about perhaps turning their generosity in a charitable direction. The next year they collected $650 to donate toward research into fatal brain diseases.

“That’s kind of how it started,” said Sue McClung, one of four women on the board who has been there from the start. “It just kept growing.”

The original members – including Nancy Dardis, Linda Haskins and Sandy Visse – became friends while their children attended Beaverton High School together in the early 1990s. Robin Case, MaryK Eilers, Laurie Mitchell and Gail Woolf joined them as board members.

“Instead of giving gifts to one another, we decided there was a better way of helping the community,” said McClung, a retired West Tualatin View Elementary School teacher.

Each year the board members select a charity that helps children. In previous years combined, they raised about $25,000 for a variety of nonprofit organizations.

My Little Waiting Room so far is the only recipient the women selected a second time as a beneficiary for their annual celebrations after also raising more than $5,000 for the same organization in 2010.

“It’s one of our favorites,” McClung said.

The nonprofit center provides free child care while family members are in the hospital or receiving other medical services. It started at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center and later expanded to Providence Portland Medical Center.

Amy Paterson, co-founder of the childcare program, called the group’s donations “especially moving and inspirational.”

McClung said the Celebration of the Creche is large enough and it board small enough that they likely won’t try to substantially expand the scope of their fundraisers, but she said their simple process could be mimicked by other groups who also want to have a positive influence in their community.

“People could use the template of what we do and do the same thing … for whatever thing they may be in support of.”