“We raise money and give it away.” That’s what Lauren Giosmas, president of Episcopal Church Women (ECW) of St. Gregory’s, said when asked to describe ECW’s work.
Lauren’s answer is straightforward, but it modestly hides the hard work required to raise that money. ECW holds a huge Christmas Emporium spanning an entire weekend in November, a Literary Tea in April, and bake sales at Christmas and Valentine’s Day, fundraisers that require untold volunteer hours of crafting, setting up, baking, helping at the events, and cleaning up.
Some evidence: I walk into the ECW craft room and, to my amazement, hundreds of Christmas decorations—trees, wreaths, centerpieces, and more—line the walls. The women have been organizing and crafting for months, and it is only mid-September. It turns out Lauren and many others work practically year-round planning, gathering materials, and much more.
ECW’s hard work is paying off in more ways than one. The money raised goes toward outreach ministries at St. Gregory’s, which benefit thousands of individuals. The Emporium, for example, grossed more than $24,000 last year, a testament to the event’s popularity and the quality of its for-sale items. But there’s more: Lauren says the women find spiritual nourishment in the work as well, which fosters their life in Christ.
Lauren has helped boost the spiritual experience for ECW members by putting the group’s focus more on service and less on formalities. Under her leadership, ECW has streamlined its meeting schedule and increased its hands-on service opportunities. Lauren discovered when she first took on the leadership role that most women did not want to attend meetings as much as they wanted to serve.
“We don’t have a lot of meetings,” she says. “With email, you can communicate easily. We’re straightforward and simple.” In other words, this is a group for women interested in rolling up their sleeves for Christ.
All Episcopal women are members of ECW, but that doesn’t mean men and families can’t help out with ECW events. “All help is welcome!” Lauren says enthusiastically. “There’s something for everyone.” She is grateful for the support of so many at St. Gregory’s, and she encourages people to keep serving alongside ECW, especially for the upcoming Emporium.
One of the easiest but most significant ways to get involved with the Emporium is to bring people to the event. “The most important thing is to invite family and friends and make this the biggest one yet,” she says. “It grows every year, and we want that to continue.”