In the spring of 1995 Mary Lou McFarland joined the Lake of the Woods Lionesses. This organization helped with Christmas gifts at the Village and participated in the Fall Festival, which was an event thanking local businesses, volunteers, and suppliers. The children were usually on a field trip during this event. The Director of the Village, Ed Murphy, asked Mary Lou, a retired reading specialist, to volunteer as a reading teacher. She started teaching reading that fall as a Lioness. In March 1996, at the request of Denise Balzano, then President of the Northern Virginia Chapter of Childhelp, Mary Lou held the first meeting of the Auxiliary at her home.
The founding members, in addition to Mary Lou, were Rosemary Mills, Karen O’Donnell, Nancy Horch, Dee Flood, Sibyle Jenks, Peggy Grella, and Karen Kovarik. Most of them volunteered to be “special friends” for children at the Village. Mary Lou was the first President of the Auxiliary, Rosemary Mills was Vice President, and Karen O’Donnell was Treasurer. Rosemary, Karen, and another founding member, Nancy Horch, all later served two-year terms as President. The first expansion of the Auxiliary’s activities happened when the principal of the Village school, John Bacon, asked the Auxiliary to do a bike rally. He was worried about the children riding bikes on the road into the Village. So the small group of original members did the first Village event on their own. They loved the bike rally. The first obstacle course was fantastic!
From the beginning, the Auxiliary worked with the DC Childhelp Chapter on Christmas, Halloween, and Easter parties. Later, we added a Summer Luau and Valentine’s Day party. The Auxiliary also established the Reading Buddies program, initially run by Nancy Horch, which has been very successful. Originally, the Auxiliary did not raise money. Because the DC Chapter was raising funds to build many of the newer buildings at the Village, the Auxiliary focused on activities for the children. We decided to make birthday baskets (now birthday backpacks) when we discovered that most of the children never received a card from home. The backpacks are filled with several small gifts and one larger gift.
The Auxiliary today has an annual budget of nearly $40,000. Our primary fundraiser is our October Dinner Dance and Silent Auction. We also collect dues and receive donations. Divine Nails, a local business, has been especially generous. We use the money for parties, special events, books for the children on their birthdays, personalized duffle bags, and outings. We also donate some of the money to the Village to pay for such items as furniture for the common areas and group homes, educational software, and landscaping.
The activities of the Auxiliary have evolved over time, but the mission has stayed the same: to support the Alice C. Tyler Village and help to enrich the lives of the children who reside there. As the National motto says, for the love of a child.