Children’s Welfare League supports local students at Spring Gala

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The Ellerson House in Hot Springs can sleep 17 and is part of the live auction at the Asheville Spring Gala for the Children’s Welfare League. Submitted photo.

The funds raised from this one event support many high school students in Buncombe County—currently 245— who are in need of financial aid. In addition the funds received go to support the Children’s Welfare League college scholarships at AB Tech and UNC-A, as well as special requests brought to their attention. This local organization was formed by a group of philanthropic members in 1923, and none of the funds are spent on overhead. Most auction items at the ball itself have been donated. In addition local greenhouses, landscaping company and florists are donating items, so the Expo Center will be filled with florals for a spring-like ambiance.

The Gala is offering a number of live auction packages, as well as silent auction items for sale. Bidding undoubtedly will be intense for these extraordinary opportunities. Examples of live auction packages include: a 3-night stay at a beautiful Lake James house; a 4-night stay at a lovely house in Hot Springs (sleeps 17); a 5-night stay at a high rise condo in Naples, Florida; a Harrah’s Cherokee package for overnight stay, and ACC basketball tickets including a 2-night stay in Raleigh. Some of the donated silent auction items include: 2 tickets to ‘Waitress’ at the Peace Center with dinner; His and Her RayBan sunglasses from Asheville Eye Associates; a beautiful oriental rug from Togar Rugs; Gift certificates from the fashionable stores, Lucy Anne and Lilly Pulitzer; rounds of golf from several elite courses in WNC. Then the ‘Restaurant Row’ table will have gift certificates to many of the area’s great culinary experiences. You can purchase a certificate from Chestnut, Strada, Glass Onion, Nightbell, 131 Main, and Ultra Coffee Café and Bar. What as assortment of action items!

cwl - signing up for auction items SM

For many years, the Children’s Welfare League Spring Gala was a Mardi Gras Ball held just before Lent. Archived photo.

What is the Children’s Welfare League?

The CWL is a volunteer organization of women founded in 1923 whose current mission is to promote the education and welfare of disadvantaged students in the high schools of Buncombe County. With approximately 106 active members and 128 associate members, the Children’s Welfare League has no staff, no office, and no paid director. Binford Jennings is this year’s President. Members dues cover all necessary overhead. Monthly meetings with speakers on a variety of topics are held throughout the school year. Counselors sometimes come to report back to us on the uses of the funds and reactions from the students. All of the proceeds raised through the annual fundraiser are used to fund the monthly Student Stipend Program, the Special Request Program, the A-B Tech and UNC Asheville Scholarship Programs and the CORE Scholarship.

CWL is a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) organization which raises funds primarily through an annual auction and ball event. These themed ball events began in 1924 and have occurred every year, except two years in the 1940’s during World War II and 1929 or 1930 due to the collapse of the financial world. Additional funds are raised annually through the Support Our Students (SOS) campaign and corporate donations and grants. Some of the current corporate sponsors are Asheville Eye Associates, AVL Technology, Blossman Gas, Dave Steel, Wells Fargo, and the Woodson Family Foundation. They have generously contributed significantly to the organization. To donate as a corporate sponsor simply speak or get in touch with Robin Ramsey, Corporate Giving Chair, Children’s Welfare League, P.O Box 15425, Asheville, NC., 28813 (828) 230-2665.

The Children’s Welfare League currently coordinates with Guidance Counselors and Social Workers in Asheville City and Buncombe County high schools to identify and select disadvantaged students,who are determined to stay in school, graduate, and seek higher education—sometimes overcoming trying and difficult circumstances. Students selected to participate in this program remain anonymous to the CWL’s organization. In order to keep the stipend, the students must have excellent school attendance, be a good citizen, and have a good academic standing. The stipend is meant as an incentive for the student to let him or her know they are appreciated by the community at large. Members of the Children’s Welfare League raise and distribute more than $100,000 annually to assist these high school students.

In addition the CWL funds special requests for students in local high schools. Guidance Counselors apply on behalf of eligible students for these “SOS” funds. Recipients may not necessarily be enrolled in the Student Stipend Programs. Funds from this program can provide emergency shelter and heating assistance during the winter, or clothing, personal hygiene needs and essential toiletry items, or to help for students abandoned by their parents(s) or living with grandparents or others and helping to raise siblings while staying in school, or for special clothing and equipment for participation in sports programs, choral and band events, or other extracurricular activities, graduation ceremonies, college housing deposits and other related expenses of transitioning to college. There are many needs that can be met by the special requests program.

Recently the Children’s Welfare League has been helping to provide the counselors with a means to fund homeless students with gas money and/or transportation vouchers. After learning about the local crisis of homelessness in the area, money was donated specifically for transportation for these students. In addition the League’s Student Activity Committee members learned of the need for sturdy backpacks, ones that last and hold up throughout the year. The CWL bought high quality backpacks, kindly discounted by Diamond Brands, as a special project to give to needy students at the beginning of the school year.

This worthwhile organization has been active in the area for many years. Their projects and donations have changed with the times. In 1930 the Children’s Welfare League started working with the Salvation Army in their Christmas Toy Shop. In the 1950’s the League had 80 members, who tried to be foster aunts to many children. The CWL then served 19 children donating $1,000 to a reading program for them. Over the years, they have had a series of fundraising Galas—the Circus Ball in the 50’s, the Wonderland Ball, the Tropicana Ball, the Cinderella Ball, and the Top Hat Ball, all at various locations. From 1989 until this year an annual Mardi Gras Ball was held for fundraising, allowing the CWL to add new high schools students as stipend recipients. This year is the first Spring Gala to enrich and improve the lives and education of the children of Buncombe County. For more information or to donate to the CWL, go to the website

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