JOLIET – The centerpieces at Saturday’s Holly Club Ball were black-and-white photos from decades of the club’s volunteers and balls. The historical reminders were the perfect sentiment for the celebration of the club’s 125th year of serving the Joliet community.
“It’s a great honor to carry this on,” Holly Club Vice President Lori Bergman said of the ball, “and to honor all the ladies who came before us. ... It’s a wonderful turnout. This is a group that has a lot of fun.”
Carolyn Curl has been a member for more than 40 years and said the ball is a holiday tradition she looks forward to every year.
“I am the oldest active member,” Curl said. “I have only missed two balls. ... This is our big event of the year. Our aim is to help the women and children of the community. It’s a nice group of ladies.”
Curl and her friend Judy Medvesky, who has been in Holly Club for 38 years, initially joined the club as a progression from the Joliet Junior Women’s Club, in which they were both active.
“I wanted to help in the community,” Medvesky said. “We all believe very strongly in the things we do for the community.”
The 119 members, patrons and guests who attended the ball met at the Joliet Country Club for cocktail hour, then a meal and later some dancing and enjoyment of the music provided by the High Society Orchestra. The event served as a fundraiser for the club’s many charitable projects.
“What the club does is for the community,” Bergman said. “We fill in the corners that the other agencies can’t fill.”
The Holly Club took its name from its ball, always held just before Christmas. Its eight young founders were too young to attend the first ball, but organized it to assist their efforts to help Joliet’s sick and needy.
The ball’s co-chair, Lisa Morel Las, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy counties, said Holly Club fulfills the needs in Joliet grade schools by supplying winter coats and clothing to students in need; providing psychological counseling for low-income residents, with special consideration for domestic violence victims and first responders; holding Christmas parties at the senior living residence, Victory Center in Joliet, and many other charities.
Its history also involves providing bandages for the war-wounded, hot lunches for Joliet school children and emergency food for families in need.
“This is a group of really inspirational women who care about the community and have a really big sense of altruism,” Las said.
Club patron and president of First Midwest Bank, Jim Roolf, whose wife, Kim, is a member, said he has supported the group since before Kim joined.
“They do things for Easter Seals and School District 86 that are so important, and yet most people don’t know it,” Roolf said. “The school district very discreetly lets the Holly Club know of particular needs. ... That’s a vitally important thing to do.”
The ambiance at the ball included laughter and gaiety, conversation and photos, but those there knew the evening also was the club’s largest fundraiser.
“Dig deep and buy those raffle tickets,” Bergman urged at the beginning of the affair.
Holly Club Secretary Lora McGuire said one of the members began an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign this year that brought in $21,000 all on its own.
Last year, the club donated more than $45,000 to its charities, and all of it stayed in Will County. There are administrative costs, but those expenses are covered by the annual dues members pay, not by their fundraising.