On a Sunday afternoon in December of 1928, sixteen young women gathered together in hopes to raise $150 to purchase a couch and chair for the Friendly Home for Children. From this meeting, the first Snowball was created.
These same young women, who had then successfully held four Snowballs, pledged to continue their charity work by establishing the Charity League of Paducah on March 13, 1932.
The Charity League’s first major project was the Lending Library located in Rudy’s Department Store. The store was nicknamed “the Macy’s of Paducah”. Paducah residents were awe struck by this luxurious and extensive store. It wasn’t until the 1937 flood when Rudy’s closed permanently that the Lending Library moved locations. Finally, settling at the Charity League House years later.
During the early years, the Charity League hosted several fundraisers in addition to Snowball. These fundraisers were often the first of their kind to be held in the area. From dog shows to art exhibits to showcasing doll collections, the ladies of the League kept bringing “big city” events to Paducah.
On March 16, 1952, the Charity League announced they would present a variety act show called, “Follies”. The funds collected were donated as the first grant to aid construction of the West Kentucky Easter Seals Center. The following year Follies was held again allowing the Charity League to donate $7,000 to the Center. Since Follies proved to be the most successful fundraiser to date it was hosted every odd year until 1999.
The highlight of 1955 was the Charity League’s gift of 2 ½ acres on Mildred Street to the Easter Seals on which the current Adult Service Center still stands.
The 50’s came to a close with a new event at the time named “Charity League’s Auction for Crippled Children”. A local Auctioneer sold antiques, household goods and other miscellaneous items. This event is now known as “Bargain Fair.”
From the late 1950s to the early 2000s, Follies, Bargain Fair, and Snowball continued to raise substantial funds for Easter Seals. These years were filled with weekly bridge games, summer dances, parties at the Easter Seals Center, and annual banquets. The Charity League published three cookbooks during this time. The first in 1954, the second in 1977, and the third in 2001. Also, membership increased to 55 women!
In 1997, a new era of the Charity League began. Members decided to expand their efforts by supporting other local charities in addition to Easter Seals. They first selected to assist Martha’s Vineyard and Habitat for Humanity during the holiday season. Members also decided they wanted to be more hands-on in the community. Volunteer opportunities ranged from hours at the Easter Seals Center to sorting canned goods at food banks to reading to children at the elementary schools.
The increase in community involvement was greatly beneficial to the growth of the League and subsequently, Easter Seals. Between 2003 and 2004, the Charity League hosted the 76th Snowball and the 27th Follies. The event donations totaled approximately $50,000 that year.
The Charity League’s continued support helped Easter Seals expand their services by adding another center on North 29th Street called the Child Development Center. The new facility allowed the Easter Seals to split the child care center and adult care center which meant they had room to grow at each.
In 2005, the Charity League decided to host a new spring fundraiser called the Golf and Giving Classic. This year the League was also fortunate to receive a $25,000 donation from an Associate, Mrs. Sarah D. Russell. Easter Seals used these funds to renovate the Adult Service Center.
A few years passed and members continued their community involvement by assisting other local charities through food can drives, toy drives, etc. All in addition to their fund raising for Easter Seals. However, the giving opportunities changed dramatically when the Charity League became the beneficiary of the Ethel Dubois Smith Trust Fund in December of 2009. The Trust Fund was set up so that the Charity League could use the fund income to further reach community needs in line with the Charity League’s mission.
In 2011, Easter Seals was in the process of yet another impressive expansion and needed the Charity League’s assistance to make a dream come true. So after consideration the Charity League donated $250,000 from the Ethel Trust Fund to aid in the construction of the new center, the Lily Pad. The Lily Pad would allow medically fragile children to learn in a less restrictive environment while also having proper medical care. The Lily Pad is a thriving center today. Not only is it beneficial for the children that attend, but it also gives the guardians freedom to return to work with the confidence their children are being taken care of by professionals.
The Charity League’s members were once again trying to think of creative ways to increase funds raised. In 2011, a tennis tournament was held raising a total of $23,000. Then in 2014, the Charity League hosted an event called Shine and Dine. The night consisted of local food vendors showcasing their talents plus a live auction and a silent auction. From this event alone, the Charity League raised $49,000. In totality, $71,700 was donated in 2014 to Easter Seals.
In 2016, the Charity League donated $75,000 from the Ethel Trust Fund for additional renovations of the Adult Services Center.
Records were broken in the 2016-2017 calendar year. The 89th annual Snowball brought in $18,715.03! And as soon as January rolled around, members began to focus on the Paducah Bluegrass Bash, a new event all about Kentucky heritage. The fundraiser featured 12 food vendors and 150 Kentucky-themed auction items and sold 656 tickets and 12 corporate sponsorships. Because of the community’s support, we were able to donate $53,417.25 to ESWKY, making it the highest funds raised from a single event, as well as the highest donation given from fundraisers to ESWKY in a year: $72,132.28.
Since the Charity League was established, the women involved have always strived to reach the most vulnerable members of our community, women and children. The efforts throughout the years to present fun and fresh events has allowed the Charity League to donate over $1,000,000 to Easter Seals and roughly $60,000 to other local charities in need. These totals do not include the many collections held such as canned food drives, toys drives, etc.
What is just as impressive is the number of hours volunteered each year. On average the Charity League members volunteer a combined total of 250 hours in a year! There are a few reoccurring volunteer opportunities, but for the most part the opportunities change each month. Giving members a chance to meet and work with several different organizations throughout the year. It also needs to be mentioned that these same woman are often involved in other charitable organizations where they lead, volunteer, sponsor, and actively contribute.
This love for community is the common bond that started in 1928 and has yet to cease. It is what drives our organization to succeed. Most importantly, it helps us fulfill the mission of the Charity League.
The mission of the non-profit, volunteer organization, the Charity League, Inc. is raising funds for Easter Seals West Kentucky and assisting other local non-profits that support the health, welfare, and general care of women and children. While creating a legacy of friendship and passion for our community, our primary purpose it to financially assist Easter Seals West Kentucky.