Word & Image: Kathie Markel, 55 

Coordinator, Circle of Friends

I realized I had all these wonderful friends that were like me, and that we were at the point of our lives where we'd already headed up the PTA, and we'd already headed up all these organizations. Your husbands were going to want more flexibility of your time. … [In 1996] I simply wrote a letter to all my friends that were tennis players, and bridge players, and golf players — and they were kind of at the same point I was — and asked them if they would like to join me in forming an organization that would basically be a community-service organization. I probably sent out 30 to 35 [letters], and I think 25 said yes. I had an instant reaction.

You're going into Blackwell, to work at the Sacred Heart Center. You're going into Gilpin Court, to work for Friends Association. You're learning about the Food Bank, and the Salvation Army, and helping mothers shop with the Christmas Mother program. So all of these types of things are fun, but likewise, it's a fun-loving group of ladies, so it's a blast to do stuff together. We ended up stopping at 40 [members], because we realized that there weren't enough projects coming along, and you don't want to get a huge bureaucracy type of thing.

We get together twice a year and pick the projects. ... And then we put together a master calendar, and that's what everybody works off of. We ask people to give $10, dues to just help pay for the lunch at the end of the year. We don't deal with money [or fund-raising] — that's what we're not about. It's all hands-on.

It's an example of how a group of people can get together and do something — all on their own, very easily — that doesn't cost anything. And nobody needs to contact us about joining our organization. It's about, "You can do this too, you and five of your friends." ... A lot of people want to help but they don't know how. It's an easy format to be able to take on yourself. — As told to Jason Roop

For more information on Circle of Friends, go to www.cofriends.org.


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