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AAUW To Host 55th Annual What’s New Fair At JCC Nov. 13-14When Debra Eck was looking to advance her education in studio arts, she needed help.
With three children - one each in elementary, middle and high school - there just wasn't enough time for her to go back to school as well.
''I had lots of driving to school to do every morning, lots of picking up from school every day,'' Mrs. Eck said. ''I really wanted to continue on, but the logistics of doing that didn't seem very realistic.''
After applying for and receiving a scholarship from the Jamestown branch of American Association of University Women, however, Mrs. Eck received the opportunity she had been searching for.
''That money made a difference because it allowed me to hire somebody to pick my kids up from school, feed them dinner, get them to their afterschool activities,'' she said. ''I finished my degree at (the University at Buffalo) and actually was the Dean's Medalist for Fine Arts the year I graduated.''
After taking a year to achieve her master's degree at Northumbria University in her native England, Mrs. Eck returned home to Jamestown and now teaches art at Jamestown Community College. She said the chance she received that was kickstarted by the scholarship she was given by AAUW has taken her to a place in life she may not have gotten to otherwise.
''The educational stepping stones allowed me to pursue my career as an artist,'' she said. ''Being able to teach at JCC because of my master's degree has given me an income stream that allows me to spend time in my studio, too.''
Mrs. Eck - who also teaches young women through working with organizations including the Jamestown Audubon, Aspire, and the Infinity Performing Arts Program - has seen her artwork exhibited to much acclaim both locally as well as in her native country. She said that her education, provided to her in part by the scholarship she received from AAUW, has helped her get to that level.
''I feel very strongly and the statistics show that when women get a better education they get a better financial toehold on life,'' she said. ''I think that education is a way for women to get out of the traditional dead-end situations that a lack of education puts them into.''
Mrs. Eck's success story is just one of hundreds that have come from the local branch of AAUW and its scholarships. More than $260,000 in scholarships have been given to more than 300 local women from the scholarship program, funds for which are raised from the branch's annual What's New Fair.
The 55th annual AAUW What's New Fair will be held Friday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 14, in the Hamilton Collegiate Center at Jamestown Community College. Sixty-one local merchants will be there selling their newest items for Christmas.
Among those merchants will be Cheryl Greenstein of GG My Love boutique on North Main Street in Jamestown. Ms. Greenstein, who moved back to her hometown of Jamestown recently from Las Vegas, said she joined AAUW during last year's fair because she was so impressed by what it provides.
''I wanted to get involved with an organization that helps women,'' she said. ''They just do such great things - I didn't know all the things that they did.''
A strong and growing organization, AAUW's Jamestown branch supports equity and education for women and girls through its actions. In addition to the scholarships it awards, the branch educates young girls in teamwork and builds self-esteem through the Get in the Game program, as well as contributing to the national AAUW Educational Fund and Legal Advocacy Fund.
Ms. Greenstein, who owned three boutiques in Las Vegas over the past two decades before coming back to Jamestown, opened her local boutique shortly after becoming a member of the AAUW branch. She shops in New York, California and Las Vegas and brings clothing back to Jamestown to resell it, and the shop also offers psychic readings - for entertainment purposes only, Ms. Greenstein said - on Saturdays.
She said the members of AAUW have been behind her throughout the process of getting herself settled into the business world in Jamestown. All the get-togethers and luncheons the AAUW members have throughout the year to talk business are chances to share that support and build a stronger community, Ms. Greenstein said.
''The ladies have supported me,'' she said. ''They inform you of things like legislation that you would probably never be aware of.''
FOR NOV. 13-14
The 55th annual What's New Fair, with proceeds benefiting the Jamestown AAUW branch's scholarship fund, will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 13 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 14. Admission will be $3 for adults, $2 for JCC and Jamestown Business College students, $1 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under.
The 61 merchants with tables set up in the Hamilton Collegiate Center during the fair will be 3C's Catering, Along Chautauqua Lake, Alphabet Art Photography Designs, Amway, The Bag Babe, The Basket Company, BeautiControl, C'Rosiez for Flowers & Gifts, Carlson's Jewelry/Weeping Willow Gifts, Caroline Alexander, Chautauqua County Master Gardeners, Curves, Discovery Toys, Edies Beadies, Evergreen Outfitters, Gift Collections by MMG, Jaguar Jewelry, Fashionista, Fences & Such, Francis Mac-Leod, Fun Bags & Accessories, GG My Love, Greater Jamestown AM Rotary, Glasswerks, Heart for Haiti, Hemlock Designs Jewelry, Ida Marie's No Bake Cheesecake Mixes, J & L Enterprizes, J B Florals, Jamestown Audubon Society, Jewels by Park Lane, Joan of Z, Josie's Jewelry, KC's Emporium, Lasting Impressions, Maple Country USA, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Marvin Community House, Natural Nomad, NYR Organics, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Peaceful Designs, Pennie's Country Scents, Petals and Twigs, Primitive Peddler, Quilter's Haven, Rainbow International Cleaning and Restoration, Roots Jewelry Design, Sew Sweet Designs, Silpada Designs, Simply Sally's, Simply Soap, Small Indulgences Jewelry, Streich's Cake and Candy, Strings and Things, Tastefully Simple, Thirty-One Gifts, Valentine Enterprises, View from Hickory Heights, Viking Trader, Weezy's Korner, and Willow House Gifts.
Among entertainment for children to enjoy during the event will be a visit from Santa Claus himself both days, and the Silvertone Barber Shoppers will serenade attendees Saturday morning from 10 to 11.
Food will be provided during the fair as well, with the AAUW offering personalized gingerbread cookies and other home-baked delectables. In addition, Next Generation Vending and Food Service will provide homemade vegetable soup and chili, macaroni and cheese, assorted sandwiches and wraps, and other foods.
Door prizes will be drawn each hour throughout the fair, with all admission tickets entered to win. Also, tickets will be sold for drawings for many other prizes that will be given away at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Jamestown branch of AAUW will also have a membership booth set up during for fair, at which any interested women can join at a discounted rate. Those interested in joining must have at least a two-year degree from an accredited college or university.
For more information about the Jamestown branch of AAUW, visit jamestown.aauw-nys.org.