Passion, altruism in Lakewood Ranch combined to form coolest club | East County

Traci Smullen, a member of the Lake Club Women’s Giving Circle, was impressed as a stream of women came through the doors to attend Wine, Women & Jewels on April 27 at the Grande Clubhouse.

She did, however, hear many of the 115 women who attended ask the same question.

“What is this event benefitting?”

Three years after the formation at the Lake Club Women’s Giving Circle, everyone is about to get an answer.

Jay Heater

The Lake Club Women’s Giving Circle, which formed under the umbrella of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund and the Manatee Community Foundation, was required to build an endowment fund that would be distributed by the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund. Lake Club members commit $1,000 over a five-year period.

Once that fund reaches the required level, the Lake Club Women’s Giving Circle is free to start a second fund which it can distribute itself. The club is free to host fundraisers as well, as it did with its first, Wine, Women & Jewels.

“The first couple of years, it was just getting together as a group, getting to know each other,” said Barbara Najmy, a local Realtor who is the group’s founder. “Now we can decide where our passions lie.”

Najmy said the club will meet in October, after many of its members who are snowbirds return, to discuss where they will go from here, how many fundraisers they will host annually and which causes will benefit.

Wine, Women & Jewels raised $6,300.

The key word in all this is passion. A Giving Circle is not a new concept, springing up in various regions around the United States before ever becoming a force in Lakewood Ranch. It has been proven effective.

Why? Just ask Smullen.

“We’re kind of like the coolest club in the neighborhood,” she said.

The women who live in the Lake Club certainly have plenty of other clubs to occupy their time and interests. Being in the Lake Club itself, they certainly have the means to follow their desires.


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