BOYNTON BEACH — With a Mardi Gras theme, entertainment by one of South Florida’s most sought-after musicians and Jerry and Janet Soderberg as this year’s honorary chairs, the Circle of Hope Gala again will help the Women’s Circle to help lower-income women.
The Feb. 20 dinner fundraiser with the 2012 theme “Carnivale of Caring” will support the 501c(3) non-profit organization that assists needy women to achieve financial stability and become all they can be through education and job development.
Women’s Circle services are financed through grants, donations, volunteer efforts and the annual Circle of Hope Gala. This year’s event is on Monday, Feb. 20, at The Hamlet Country Club, 3600 Hamlet Dr., Delray Beach, beginning with cocktails and a silent auction at 6 p.m., and the invocation at 7:30 followed by dinner and dancing. Jim Sackett, retired WPTV NewsChannel 5 anchor, is the special guest, and donations are $90; for more information visit womenscircle.org or call 561-244-7627.
The Women’s Circle was established in 2000 by Sister Lorraine Ryan, a Medical Missionary sister, and Sister Joan Carusillo, a Holy Cross nun. In 1999, Sister Lorraine conducted a survey asking the greatest needs and hopes of low-income women and their families living in “the Heart of Boynton Beach.” Many could not speak English and were unemployed. They wanted jobs and skills that could help them improve their and their families’ lives.
Thus began a decade of caring. The Women’s Circle opened its doors in January 2000, sharing half of a duplex (620 square feet of space) rented from the Boynton Beach Community Caring Center.
Under the guidance of Sister Lorraine and Sister Joan, the Circle began offering classes ranging from English and Creole literacy to computer skills to sewing and crocheting, and services such as employment counseling and interview clothing.
The sisters’ dedication has since become legend, along with that of myriad volunteers and staff such as Teresa (Tee) Jackson and Laurette Valcena, job development co-coordinators, and Gilda Galdo, administrative assistant in charge of education.
As more and more needy women flocked to their cramped location for help, the Women’s Circle soon outgrew its home. The City of Boynton Beach's investment of a $100,000 interest-free mortgage loan helped make possible the Women’s Circle’s recent move from a shared duplex to its newly renovated, larger facility at 912 S.E. 4th St.
The work led by Sister Lorraine Ryan and Sister Joan Carusillo to help the unemployed, uneducated and often underfed of Boynton Beach and environs has been recognized in a new 30-minute documentary, Women’s Circle — A Spiritual Life of Giving, filmed in the WXEL public television studios by Paul Gionfriddo, veteran documentary producer.
In it the sisters share success stories such as that of Marie Desir, who got her start at Women’s Circle, and who despite limited English skills and many trials along the way, is realizing her desire to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, evidenced by her recent scholarship from the Soroptimist Club of Boca Raton.
To help impoverished women to “help not only themselves and their families, but to raise the level of the community while doing that,” is one of the Women’s Circle’s goals. Not funded by any church or religious organization, the 501(c)3 Women’s Circle depends solely on grants and individual donations. Now established in its new facility, the Women’s Circle more than ever needs the support of the community to extend its program services to more women in need, and to celebrate another decade of caring.
Photo: COURTESY OF WOMEN’S CIRCLE
FOR THE WOMEN: Gilda Galdo, Women’s Circle administrative assistant, leads students in the ESOL and Literacy in Creole classes at the non-profit whose annual benefit dinner is a seasonal hightlight.