By Jenet Krol
COCOA BEACH - This year, members of the Cocoa Beach Woman's club will celebrate 45 years of supporting educational scholarships and promoting the advancement of women in Cocoa Beach and the surrounding areas.
Founded in 1965 by Louise Broiser, the nonprofit organization, which has close to 50 members, meets the first Thursday of every month at the Cocoa Beach Country Club.
"I had never lived in a town that didn't have one," said Ms. Broiser, who moved to Cocoa Beach from Virginia in 1965. "The women north of (state road) 520 didn't know the women south of (state road) 520 and I thought it was terrible."
So, Ms. Broiser got to work organizing the club, and even before they'd been awarded their charter they embarked on their first project.
Endeavoring to help victims of Hurricane Betsy, Ms. Broiser and the 33 original members collected 90 tons of supplies that were sent as relief to Louisiana.
On Oct. 7, 1965 the club received its official charter and in the following years completed many projects to improve the community, including incorporating an art festival, starting a senior citizen's club (which is now the Freedom 7 Senior Center) and raising money for the construction of a community center.
On the club's 25th anniversary they donated land and money to build the community center, which is now part of the Cocoa Beach Country Club. Since then, the club has donated $500,000 to fund the community center and make improvements such as adding a dance floor and drapes for the stage.
They raised money for this through the "Out of the World" cookbook sales, said Marilyn Grigsby, treasurer and past president.
"Members wrote to everyone they knew, including astronauts and politicians," said Ms. Grigsby.
One cookbook includes a recipe submitted by former first lady Nancy Reagan.
Supporting education has also been a key component to the club's activities, said Ms. Grigsby.
The club provides scholarships for high school seniors at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School, for women returning to the workforce, runs a remedial reading tutoring program in elementary schools and supports the performing arts programs at the schools.
The club's fundraisers throughout the year also support student awards, project graduation, the Space Coast Art Festival, the Salvation Army, Special Olympics and Hugh O'Brien Youth Scholarship Program.
Outstanding students at the four Cocoa Beach area elementary schools receive savings bonds from the club when they graduate to middle school.
The members raise their funds through events throughout the year including a fashion show in January, arts and crafts fairs in the winter and fall and the Pelican Home Tour in March.
In the past, the club hosted the Space Coast King and Queen contest, awarding the title to whoever could raise the most funds in honor of the club.
The challenge ceased two years ago, but Ms. Grigsby said they are bringing it back next year.
The last crowned king was Commissioner Kevin Pruett in 2007 and the last crowned queen was Teresa Hardcastle in 2005.
Ms. Broiser said 45 years later she is pleased the club is still helping both young and older people, which is what she enjoys doing.
"Being a part of the club is really a joy. I love meeting all of the ladies and seeing what they can do," she said.
The club members will celebrate the 45th anniversary with a luncheon at the Cocoa Beach Country Club Sept. 9, beginning at 9:30 a.m. with a meet and greet, followed by a business meeting and ribbon cutting. Lunch will begin at 11:30 a.m.
Anyone is welcome to attend and lunch is a $15 donation. For reservations, call (321) 783-4179.