It was 1898 when Lady Aberdeen, Ishbel Gordon founded the first service club in Canada, The May Court Club. Also renowned for originating the Victorian Order of Nurses, Lady Aberdeen, wife of Canada's then Governor General was a dedicated reformer that propelled analogous women into helping those less fortunate.
Today, Oakville's May Court Club is one of nine clubs in The Association of Canada and currently boasts 240 members of the 1,500 women in the Association. An Ontario Charitable Public Foundation, the club is directed and operated solely by volunteer members.
The May Court Club of Oakville gives service to and raises funds for the community as well as fostering friendships among its members. Donating 100 per cent of funds to those in need, the club has become a role model for volunteerism and community service. Much of their work has been focused on assisting children. Since its inception in 1956, the May Court Club of Oakville has donated countless hours and significant dollars to Oakville and its neighbouring communities within the Regions of Halton and Peel.
Past president and long-time member, Patricia Hutchinson, is a woman not dissimilar to that of Lady Aberdeen. Strong in ethics and leadership skills, the 50-year plus May Court Club member is herself an energetic intelligent woman who looked for ways to help people. Originally a member in Ottawa in 1961, it was Oakville's good fortune when Hutchinson moved and transferred her membership in 1973. Having made a significant influence in her years with the Oakville Club, Hutchinson says she continues to do things when they arise. “What sustains me is the women members who continue to make the community a better place. For me, I loved the opportunity to explore leadership and make friends. Over the years I have seen the club grow and become more vital, always looking for new opportunities to fulfill the needs of others.”
Money is raised and dispensed through “fundraising and friendraising,” says Secretary Treasurer and nine-year member Fulvia Walton. “Some of the money we raise through our Nearly New Consignment Shop on Kerr Street. Funds go to our three in house initiatives: May Court Puppeteers which provides a free community service for elementary schools educating students on bullying; our May Court Lunch Box program provides free nutritious snacks for over 42 elementary schools, and our May Court Scholarship Program supports local students with a more than average financial need.”
Bringing financial support to countless charities, the club provides assistance to smaller organizations in the locality who may not have access to professional fundraising resources. A personal favourite, Hutchinson recalls is the Cary House. “Formed in 1975, I have always had a soft spot for it and served on their board for years. It's a group home for adults with physical disabilities who require an “˜attendant to be independent'.”
The name May Court Club draws a crowd on reputation alone. Fundraisers and sponsors are both plentiful and of large scale. From the Mirror Mirror Fashion Show to Art Around the Benz, such events are essential to their programs and charities. Upcoming is the highly anticipated Table Tops weekend May 24 and 25. An illustrious affair, Table Tops – Decorating & Entertaining Trends offers visitors a different type of décor event that includes a cafe decorated by Frank Rae of Forget Me Not Flowers. Bryan and Sarah Baeumler of HGTV will be featured guests at the Table Tops Soiree, the Saturday evening cocktail party, catered by Nadine Hughes and hosted by The Wine Ladies. More than 30 designers and retail stores display their “tablescapes” and 16 seminars are lined up for the Speaker Series. All benefits go directly to ROCK – Reach Out Centre for Kids.
Becoming a May Court Club member is simple, and rewards one's service a hundred-fold. Says Walton, “You see the difference you make intimately as we support the most vulnerable in our community.”
So many years back, May Court Club's humble beginning was handing out Christmas baskets to needy families. Today, Lady Aberdeen's intent lives on in people such as Patricia Hutchinson. “I have tried in my own way to emulate her aspirations. May Court Club is a wonderful opportunity to expand your life and others.”
For more info: maycourt.ca