Early last year, new members of the Hinsdale chapter of the Auxiliary of the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago took a trip to Logan Square to visit the IWS healthcare clinic, a community-based facility that provides healthcare services to underserved children and women who wouldn’t have access to services otherwise. Chapter members met young children, their mothers and other women visiting the client for basic medical care, dentistry and optometry, among other reasons.
Established in 1911, IWS has been helping women and children in Chicago for more than 100 years. The Hinsdale group is one of 13 auxiliary chapters that provide fundraising support for IWS and the clinic. “It’s imperative the auxiliary raise money. It’s a line item in the budget,” says Amy Bailey, first-year president of the Hinsdale chapter and three-year member of the group. New members are encouraged to visit the facility to see exactly how the money they raise is helping young children and families. “You can put your heart behind because you know how much good it does,” Bailey adds.
The chapter’s largest annual fundraising event, Tablescapes, takes place this month on Sunday, March 15, at the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort. Last year, the annual luncheon, silent auction and raffle contributed the majority of the $77,000 the chapter raised during the year. The 2014 event had 400 attendees; Bailey hopes to see that number close to 500 this year.
“Every year, the event evolves, and the themes make the experience different,” Bailey says. A big feature of the luncheon is its elaborately designed tablescapes. This year’s theme is SweetSt Tastings and Tablescapes, and attendees will see seven different tables created to represent different types of sweet treats. One table will feature fondue equipment and treats, while another table will have a variety of pies as part of an outdoor al fresco theme. Other tables will feature cakes, pastries, donuts, confections, and cocktails. Attendees can enter their names in a raffle to win a complete table design. The chapter’s 42 members break up into separate committees to plan and design the entire event, including the tablescapes.
“We do a lot of work for a small group of women,” says Debi Kisluk, this year’s benefit committee chair who oversees the planning of the event. “Everybody has a job that is incredibly important. The talent pool of people that get involved in Infant Welfare in our chapter is really impressive,” she adds.
Kisluk, Bailey, and other key members of the planning team wanted to design an interactive experience for this year’s event, especially since the venue afforded them the space to do so. When attendees arrive, they will be greeted with a street-like atmosphere. The “sweet street” will be dotted with confectionaries and bakeries. The experience will include street performers, food demonstrations, cookie designing, and boutique shopping. The street flows into a larger banquet area, where the tablescapes, silent auction items and luncheon are located.
“When I set out at the beginning of this year, I wanted the members’ experience to be meaningful,” Bailey says. “I want them to understand their work does so much good, and I want them to have a great time doing it,” she adds, acknowledging that despite how much time and effort goes into the event, the chapters members have a lot of fun planning and executing the luncheon.
Tablescapes is the largest but not the only fundraising initiative the group takes part in each year. Last year, the Hinsdale chapter partnered with the Clarendon Hills chapter for a holiday tea and shopping event. It also holds an annual shop-and-share at the Alixandra Collections, and a baby shower and luncheon where members donate items as if they were attending a baby shower that are donated to clinic patients. Two chapter members also head up a junior board of 35 teenagers. They recently held a book drive and collected hundreds of children’s books that will be used at a book fair at the center in June. “It’s amazing to see young people thinking outside of themselves and creating ways to help each other,” Bailey says. “The way they communicate and spread information is so impressive.”
“We have a real purpose,” Kisluk says, reiterating Bailey’s point that money raised isn’t extra funds for IWS; it’s budgeted for annually. “They rely on our money raised so they can keep the clinic running. I keep thinking about how there was a boy this Christmas, and all he asked for was a winter coat. It makes you realize how close to home there are people who are in such need, and there’s something we can do to help them.”
SweetSt, Tastings, and Tablescapes is Sunday, March 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort. Tickets are $85 per person and can be purchased at hinsdaletablescapes.com.
– Elizabeth Hope // Photography by Joel Lerner