HISTORY OF FOND DU LAC CHARITY CLUB
The Charity Club is the oldest charitable organization in the city of Fond du Lac. This club was an outgrowth of the Cathedral Wednesday Club founded in 1899 by the Reverend and Mrs. Blossom. In October 1900, twenty members of the club formed the nucleus of what has since been known as The Charity Club.
According to the first Constitution, membership was limited to 34 women and dues of 50 cents were paid semi-annually. In 1914, the fifteenth anniversary was celebrated at the home of Mrs. Rueping. Every year up until this anniversary, the club had earned between $300 and $400 by sales and entertainments. They also did lots of personal work such as Christmas trees for children, gifts of food and clothes at Thanksgiving. By 1928, the club was earning over $600 to spend on milk and other donations to the city’s three homes, the Public Welfare Association and other projects. In 1931, Charity Club was already being called the oldest City Philanthropic group.
The annual Ball provided a working fund for the year. Milk funds were established at schools. Materials purchased for clothing and towels, sheets, pillowcases and other supplies continued to be donated to the city’s homes, especially the Children’s Home. Three times a year, the Club held a social gathering. All remaining meetings, held every two weeks, were devoted to work on garments and supplies. Charity Club continued to work in conjunction with the Public Welfare Association and carried on extensive work among the indigent. Provisions of milk for children at homes and schools were a top priority. The club also took on emergency cases, with special attention to sick persons without funds.
In 1969, Charity Club along with the Service League and the Soroptimists provided the initial funding for the newly proposed halfway house for individuals with alcohol-dependency issues that was to be named the Blandine House; named after an Agnesian nun in recognition for her work with those who battled alcoholism.
In 1970, 5,314 quarts of milk were given to needy children as well as camp memberships to Waubeek, Girl and Boy Scout camp and YMCA day camp. The club continued to aid emergency cases with food, drugs and clothing. Members wrapped gifts and gave them to residents at the Fond du Lac County Hospital. According to a newspaper article in 1970, the ball was held every year since the turn of the century with the exception of the years during the two World Wars, and it was held at the Retlaw (Ramada) in the Crystal Ballroom.
The first Ball was held in 1910 at the home of Edwin Galloway, the now Historic Galloway House. Guests arrives in horse drawn carriages and sleighs wrapped in fur rugs with soap stones for heat. Crash was used to cover the carpets for dancing. It was an elegant affair and guests were beautifully dressed. In 1911, the ball was held at the Armory on East Second Street. The theme was as Cotillion. Members brought their own furniture-lamps, tables, sofas, and carpets to provide a warm setting for the dance. Dinner was served in the basement. The 1911 Cotillion was one of the most brilliant successes in the history of the club. Over 200 couples danced for “Sweet Charities Sake” until early hours of the morning.
Until the early 1970’s, the Ball was held at the Retlaw. The location changed several times, but with respect to the history of the ball, the 100th anniversary celebration was held at the Crystal Ball Room, the site of so many wonderful past events.
Because of the focus of the Milk Fund, the milk bottle was the well-recognized symbol for Charity Club that was used for the tickets as well as publicity for many years.
Fashion at the Ball has always reflected the sign of the times. Long formal gowns and tuxedos, to short cocktail dresses of the 1960’s, to flowing pantsuits of the 1970’s, to the more informal attire in the early 1990’s.
The main concern of Charity Club today is the needy children of the Fond du Lac community. Through collection of annual dues and the club’s signature Charity Ball, Charity Club is able to supply milk to the homes of those families in need as well as providing milk to some schools when specific needs are made known. Charity Club continues to allocate funds to many of the established charitable organizations in Fond du Lac, and occasionally helps individual families with specific needs for their child.
In celebration of Charity Club’s 100th anniversary, a distinctive project pledge of $10,000 was donated to the Fond du Lac Public Library to develop a special children’s reading room.
In 2010-2011, the Charity Club gave back over $30,000 in milk and funding for children in Fond du Lac.
In 2019, the Charity Ball raised $76,000, with $46,000 is donated through our milk fund.
The direct impact on the community to the organizations receiving milk money include: Advocap – they reach 50 families, 140 single parents, 15 children in foster care, and 24 children considered homeless. Solutions Center – they give four gallons per week for two shelters. Family Resource Center – they reach 560 children between the ages of 0 – 5 years. Camp to Belong – provide milk for 150 – 200 participants.
Fondy Food Pantry, Holyland Food Pantry, The Salvation Army, Broken Bread, Loaves and Fishes, New Beginnings all benefit from Milk Money. An additional $30,000 being donated to support other local charities, such as the Fond du Lac Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army, Shop with a Cop, YMCA, The Salvation Army, ARC, Fond du Lac Public Library – Summer Reading Program, Friday Food Drive, Fond du Lac Yscreen, Habitat for Humanity, the Holyland Food Pantry and Women’s Empowerment Services – Childcare during Series.