It broke their hearts, but Wellesley Hills Junior Women’s Club co-chairs Natalia Morgan and Adela Tarshi did what they had to do. Earlier this month, they let the community know that the WHJWC’s biggest and most anticipated fundraiser of the year, Wellesley Marketplace, would be canceled for 2020.
In an email to club members, vendors, and others, the co-chairs said, “As we were getting closer to the date, it became clear to us that we could not make the event a fun and safe environment for everyone. We realize the impact of this decision for small businesses and the disappointment of our vendors and customers who look forward to the Wellesley Marketplace each year. However, the safety and health of our community is our top priority.”
The show, a late-November tradition for the past 43 years, typically draws a crowd of over 1,700 shoppers eager to score goodies made by over 200 artists and crafts people from New England and afar. It isn’t all about the swag, though. Marketplace has always been a true community event. The Juniors traditionally have provided at least a dozen tables pro-bono for area non-profits, clubs, and school groups. Last year, Hardy Elementary School 5th graders sold snacks to help fund some of their end-of-year programs; the Wellesley HS varsity cheerleaders were there to show spirit and raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and A Better Chance volunteers were there to raise awareness and funds in a quest to purchase a permanent new home for the program’s scholars. (Mission accomplished, by the way.)
The cancellation represents a major financial hit for not only the WHJWC, but for the over 240 vendors and artisans who were planning on a big revenue day. Application fees have been refunded to vendors.
Fundraising activities such as Marketplace raise over $165,000 per year, which is given away each year by the WHJWC in the form of college scholarships and donations to community groups. Without its fundraisers, the Club’s coffers are taking a beating. But there’s hope.
Club member Susan O’Dell says, “We’ve had people who have been doing rainy day planning for the Club ever since the Club started. Now’s our rainy day, and we’re ready. We can fill all the needs we normally fill for now. Hopefully things will get better, and we will be back to fundraising in full force again soon. Our rainy day fund can’t last forever. But for 2020 – 2021 we are planning to go forward with all the funding we normally to do for scholarships and for area groups who rely on us for part of their funding.”
The WHJWC hasn’t given up on fundraising. This winter they plan to breathe new life into an old tradition — Luminary Night is going to make a triumphant return after a hiatus of a few years. On Luminary Night, typically in mid-December, neighborhoods and businesses throughout Wellesley light luminary candles purchased from the WHJWC. The idea is to create a beautiful town-wide glow along Wellesley’s streets, sidewalks and doorsteps, welcoming the holiday season.
The Club is also considering publishing a cookbook with recipes from Club members, local restauranteurs, and others.
O’Bell says, “We have 80+ members. When every one of us does a little bit, which is how our club operates, a lot of good can come out of it. We all need a sense of community giving to happen again. As a Club, we want to get back on track with that as soon as possible.”