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For the answer to our grandchildren’s queries of the heading above:

The women of St. James’ Church, Stratford, are an amazing group of women who work tirelessly in service to our Church.

We serve as lay assistants, readers, greeters, counters, and sides-persons. We serve as the chancel guild, the altar guild, and we work as a member of the parish council, the wardens, the outreach committee, the Special Events Committee, the Building Committee, the Marketing Committee, the Cemetery Committee, the Membership Committee, the Meditation Group, the Bible Study Group, the Benedict Study Group, in the Library/Archives, in the Choir, in the Food Bank, with the Green Team, AND we are the A.C.W.

We meet for a luncheon meeting 8 months of the year and average 30-40 people at each meeting. How do you get so many out to your meetings you may ask? Well, as an ACW, we continue our service by serving as the Visiting Group, the Meals on Wheels Group, by sending Bales to the North, by providing after church refreshments, by providing for funeral gatherings, and if I was to be perfectly honest…by providing wonderful free lunches at our meetings. Our resident chef (Phil Guest) provides us with amazing meals, and by keeping the cost economical, it is not a burden to our budget.

The two most prominent functions we engage in, as an ACW, are our two fundraisers: the Mistletoe Market and the Annual Variety Sale.

The Mistletoe Market

After 25 years of holding the Holly Wreath Shoppe sale, our two convenors retired – not from the work, but from the organizing.

We were lucky to have a super marketer in our group, and since we did not want to see this annual event fade away, we re-organized ourselves, re-branded the sale, and started our successful Mistletoe Market. It is still our Christmas Bazaar. Our crafters, sewers and canning experts work during the year to provide products for our sale. We formed a kitchen crew, who make tourtières and cabbage rolls in bulk, which sell very well (sold out in first 10 minutes of sale). Over the last five years, we have continued to see from $5000 to $9000 profit from this sale.

The Annual Variety Sale

This sale has been in place at St. James’ Church for longer than I can remember. We have three floors of bargains, including furniture, appliances, clothing, house wares, art, jewellery, music, books, treasures and just good old junk; all organized by the ladies of our ACW (ok, we get help from some of the men). Donations come in starting April 1, and we spend most of the month pre-sorting and storing everything – (thank goodness we have a large church and ample space). We spend a week putting everything in place in the various departments under the guidance of our department leaders.

The sale goes on for two days. People line up hours before the opening night and it becomes a community happening. We provide clients of our food bank with a coupon for a free bag of things; we hold a toonie a tote night and then we start the clean up.

We spend another two days re-distributing our left over items to other churches and Charities, and finally we just go home and collapse. From this gargantuan effort, we make from $10,000 to $14,000 profit.

Where does the money go?

First, we support the work of the Parish Council by giving them $12,500 yearly. As well, every new stacking chair and work table, has been financed by us; the Club room flooring and some furniture, has been purchased by us; and just recently our brand new painted and tiled kitchen and the Commercial Dish Washer was provided and paid for by the ACW.

We support community organizations like the Children’s Aid, L’Arche, the Stratford Hospice, and the Youth Drop -in Centre at Knox Church. In the Diocese, we give to the PWRDF, the Huron Church Camp, Monica Place and of course to the ACW.

The Future

Things change, or at least that is what Bishop Linda assures us, as we struggle to stay relevant in a changing world.

Our members are aging, This is not something that is new to all of our churches or to our ACW. It is a phenomenon that is part of the paradigm shift that is upon us.

What can we do?

Well, we at the St. James’ ACW will once again re-examine our direction, re-organize our activities, re-direct our efforts… and continue to pray.

We will continue to serve. We will continue to work for our parish. We will continue to be the wonderful Women of the ACW that we have always been. And we will continue to show our grandchildren, what we can and do accomplish in our retirement.

Karen Haslam, President, ACW of St. James Anglican Church, Stratford