Info & History
In 1989 Linda Radomski, the local Welcome Wagon representative, when calling on three particular ladies, was asked if there was a Newcomers Club. At that time, there was not. An organizational meeting was held on September 11, 1989. Linda met with Vicki Walden, Judi Purcell and Marion Soper at Bay Window Deli. After that meeting, a coffee was planned for October 3, to be held at the home of Judi Purcell. An article was placed in the Sentinel telling of the formation of a Newcomers Club. Ladies in the Gulf Breeze, Midway, Navarre, Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach area who had resided in the area for less than 2 years were invited to attend.
It was determined at the October Coffee meeting that there was enough interest to go forward. On November 9, 1989, a luncheon was held, dues were collected, officers elected and the “Welcome Wagon of Gulf Breeze” was born. The National Welcome Wagon Club’s Bylaws were adopted. Twenty-one ladies joined that day. Within a month, several special interest groups were formed and in December, the club’s first newsletter was published. Monthly meetings were held at the Gulf Breeze Holiday Inn or the Tiger Point Country Club. Eventually, Tiger Point Country club became the club’s permanent meeting facility. In April, Manna Food Bank in Gulf Breeze was chosen as the club’s ongoing charity. Members began bringing canned goods to the general meetings or donating cash.
In April it was learned that the National Welcome Wagon Club rules only allowed membership for two years. Further, they required local clubs to contribute to national charities. Members did not want to be forced out of the club after two years and they preferred that contributions be given to local charities. By June 1990, the national affiliation with Welcome Wagon was dropped, new Bylaws were adopted and the club was renamed “Gulf Coast Friends.”
Elections of officers was held in November with installation in December. President Elect Jan Mayo recommended the club year be changed to run from September to May, with a summer break. The membership voted to accept the change and all board members agreed to serve for 18 months to accommodate the change.
Gulf Coast Friends at this point was strictly a social club with exception of the monthly Manna Food Bank donations. Dues covered expenses and there were no fundraisers. At the March meeting, a White Elephant sale was started. This continued for April and May. By September 1991, it was decided to have and “Annual Craft Fair,” with the first fair to be held on a General Meeting date in November.
The Craft Fair had been a tremendous success and was a Gulf Coast Friends main fundraiser. The first two years it was held at Tiger Point Country Club. The third year moved to Holiday Inn Navarre Beach. The following year it was moved to Holiday Inn in Gulf Breeze, where it remained until 2000. In 2001, the fair location was moved to New World Landing in Pensacola. More than 52 members worked to ensure a success, with 321 ladies attending.
With the rapid growth of Gulf Breeze in 1995, the ladies in Holley by the Sea, Navarre and Navarre Beach area formed a sister club, Emerald Coast Women’s Club. Their first meeting was September 1995. Our immediate Past President attended their meeting and installed their officers.
In January 1996, several members of Gulf Coast Friends were instrumental in the formation of yet another club, Gulf Isle Neighbors.
In 1996 the membership voted to delete the two-year residency requirement. In October 2000, the bylaws were also changed to allow any member who moved out of the area the option to remain a member.
To raise additional funds in 1996, a decision to hold raffles and a recycled book sale at the General Meetings was started. In addition, the Lunch Connection published a cookbook for sale. In May 2003, Interfaith Ministry of Santa Rosa County was selected to replace Manna Food Bank as an ongoing charity.
As of 2021, Gulf Coast Friends has donated over $167,913.00 to our community. Our 2020-2021 contributions were given to Children in Crisis, Interfaith Ministries and Take Stock in Children.