District President: JoBeth Wampler
Most often associated with the Appalachian Mountains, where we call home, GFWC Virginia's Southwestern District includes the Commonwealth's 15 westernmost counties.
The history of Southwestern goes back around 100 years. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, clubs affiliated with the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Virginia were represented by their home districts. With few clubs in those early years, the state began with only three. However, as new clubs emerged and membership grew, Virginia divided those three districts into the eight it has today. The Southwestern District we know now was formed in April 1952, composed of the counties of Lee, Wise, Scott, Dickenson, Buchanan, Russell, Washington, Tazewell, Smyth, Bland, Wythe, Grayson, Giles, Pulaski, and Carroll, as well as the cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton.
The same gumption and hardworking nature that aided generations before us in taming a rugged terrain is exactly what our members put into their volunteer efforts. Clubs in Southwestern have aided in restoring local landmarks and creating public parks. They have supported libraries and created food security programs for children in need. When clubwomen identify a need, Southwestern District clubs are eager to rise to the challenge.
During the 2020-2022 term, the district project is 'Pick Up The Pen For Autism.' Not specifically related to ‘putting pen to paper,’ clubs have been encouraged to 'pick up the pen' in a variety of ways. For instance, since most children with autism aren’t diagnosed until age 4, clubs have been encouraged to find ways to educate new parents on which milestones their children should be meeting as they grow, as well as the warning signs of autism, like the avoidance of eye contact.
Since many parents don’t realize free speech, physical, and occupational therapists will come straight to their homes – but only prior to a child’s third birthday, time is of the essence. Clubs have been asked to spread awareness about the importance of early intervention and to help connect parents with their local resources for Early Intervention, Infant & Toddler Connection of Virginia.
Awareness, however, isn't the only goal our District President has set for Southwestern District clubs. She has encouraged clubs to advocate, staying abreast of autism-related legislation and contact their representatives to advocate for individuals with autism. She suggested clubs seek out community partnerships, collaborative efforts, or support groups in their areas to find out how their clubs can help. Local healthcare providers, community health boards, therapy clinics, special education coordinators within each county’s public school system, psychological or mental health service providers, or departments of social services are all great resources. By learning more about autism-related organizations operating within their region or what autism services are being provided, clubs can seek out ways they can improve them.
Tying into her theme of 'Write Your Own Story,' the District President chose the blue feather quill pen as her symbol and has encouraged every club in Southwestern to continue to forge their own paths. On a club level, through the projects our clubs are completing and the steps they are taking, Southwestern is leaving a mark on this world.
You can find out more about the Southwest District at https://www.facebook.com/GFWCVirginiaSWD/