Members of the North Mecklenburg Woman’s Club have turned an interest in tabletop decorations into a way to help women who want to go to college.
This year is the sixth annual Over the Tabletop fundraiser, which features designer tabletops and crafts made by local artists. All of the money raised goes to the ANSWER Scholarship Endowment, a Charlotte-based scholarship organization.
Denise Carter, president of the Woman’s Club, said the event has grown significantly from its start as a display of decorated tables and trees.
They began bringing in local artists and vendors to sell their wares, and they hoped to turn the proceeds into a scholarship for a local high school student.
The club had a hard time, however, getting students to apply for a $1,000 scholarship. Carter said students could easily find larger scholarships and grants online.
“ANSWER has truly been our answer,” Carter said of the the club’s partnership with the organization. “It’s just been such a beautiful match.”
ANSWER was founded by Susan Andersen, a South Charlotte resident who put herself through college at UNC Charlotte with the help of a local scholarship. She created the scholarship in 2006 after she and her husband of 22 years were divorced and she began volunteering with women and children in the community.
She wanted to turn around the sadness of her own situation by helping others, she said.
Andersen originally funded the annual scholarships, which range between $1,000 and $4,000, with her own money. Applicants must be women with at least one school-age child who are working full-time toward a four-year degree or a two-year nursing degree at a local, accredited school.
Over the years, individual donors and community organizations such as the Woman’s Club have helped pay for scholarships, which Andersen said has allowed her to almost double the number she awards.
She said club’s involvement in ANSWER has been “huge.”
“Their money is so important because what they give funds three of our scholarships,” Andersen said. “It basically doubled the (amount of) recipient’s scholarships.”
Members of the Woman’s Club also serve as mentors for scholarship recipients, which is a vital part of the program. Andersen added a mandatory mentoring aspect to ANSWER when she saw that some of her early scholarship recipients weren’t staying in school. Her goal is for 100 percent of scholarship recipients to graduate.
She looked into why women were leaving college, and found that when life got difficult, they often gave up their own education first to lessen their load. Many of the women are single moms trying college for the second time after dropping out years before.
“With a mentor beside them, they can get encouragement and support to stay in school,” Andersen said. “It’s tough, but these women are more motivated the second time around because they are setting an example for themselves and for their children.”
Some scholarship recipients report that their children are making the honor roll for the first time, inspired by their mothers’ examples. Two children of scholarship recipients graduated from college this year.
Andersen also has plenty of success stories from her scholarship recipients, including a woman who was the first in her family to earn a college degree and is now enrolled at Charlotte School of Law and a recipient who went on to earn a master’s degree and works as a licensed mental health therapist.
ANSWER awarded four scholarships its first year, and now it gives out between seven and 10 every year. Recipients can reapply annually for a scholarship.
So far, 21 scholarship recipients have graduated from college, Andersen said.
Carter said the Woman’s Club hopes to raise $10,000 for ANSWER this year.
The demonstrations will include how to make vinaigrettes, bows and fairy gardens, and the event also will feature holiday-themed tabletop design and tree decoration.
“It’s going to be a great event,” Carter said. “Every year it gets bigger.
“We’re thrilled to be supporting women.”