HISTORY OF FOND DU LAC CHARITY CLUB

The Charity Club is the oldest charitable organization within Fond du Lac city, with its roots tracing back to the Cathedral Wednesday Club initiated in 1899 by Reverend and Mrs. Blossom. In October 1900, twenty club members formed the foundation for The Charity Club.

Initially, the membership was capped at 34 women, each contributing dues of 50 cents semi-annually. By 1914, the club celebrated its fifteenth anniversary at Mrs. Rueping’s home, consistently earning between $300 and $400 through sales and entertainment events. They were involved in personal acts of kindness, including organizing Christmas trees for children and providing food and clothing for Thanksgiving.

By 1928, the club’s earnings exceeded $600, allocated for milk and various donations to the city’s three homes, the Public Welfare Association, and other community projects. As early as 1931, the Charity Club had already earned recognition as the oldest philanthropic group in the city.

The club’s annual Ball served as a primary funding source for the year, while the milk fund was established in local schools. Members purchased materials for clothing and various supplies, which they then donated to city homes, with particular emphasis on the Children’s Home. They also offered assistance in emergency cases, focusing on those without financial means, particularly individuals facing health issues.

In 1969, in collaboration with the Service League and the Soroptimists, the Charity Club contributed initial funding for the Blandine House, a halfway house for those struggling with alcohol dependency. The year 1970 saw the club’s continued dedication, including providing 5,314 quarts of milk to needy children, camp memberships, assistance for emergency cases, and gifts to residents at the Fond du Lac County Hospital.

The Charity Ball, a longstanding tradition, had a brief hiatus during the World Wars but otherwise remained a consistent feature, hosted in venues like the Retlaw in the Crystal Ballroom.

The first Ball occurred in 1910 at Edwin Galloway’s historic Galloway House. Guests arrived in horse-drawn carriages, wrapped in fur rugs with soap stones to keep warm. Crash served as a carpet cover for dancing. As the years went by, the Ball’s fashion evolved from long formal gowns and tuxedos to short cocktail dresses in the 1960s, flowing pantsuits in the 1970s, and more casual attire in the early 1990s.

Today, the Charity Club’s primary mission is to support the underprivileged children in Fond du Lac. Through annual dues and the iconic Charity Ball, they provide milk to needy families and supply schools when specific needs arise. They also allocate funds to various charitable organizations in the community and extend assistance to individual families with specific child-related needs.
In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the Charity Club pledged $10,000 to the Fond du Lac Public Library for a special children’s reading room.

In recent years, the Charity Club has made substantial contributions, including over $30,000 in milk and funding for children in Fond du Lac in 2010-2011. The 2019 Charity Ball raised $76,000, with $46,000 directed to their milk fund. Over $200,000 has been dedicated to the Milk Fund since 2020.

The community impact of the organizations receiving milk money is significant, ranging from Broken Bread, Solutions Center, Family Resource Center, and Camp to Belong to various local food pantries, Salvation Army, and more. Additional funds support a wide array of local charities and services.