For 55 years, charitable-minded women have built a reputation for giving through the Country Friends organization. Based in Rancho Santa Fe, the members come from La Jolla to Carlsbad. They have given more than $12 million to numerous organizations countywide.
On April 29, the Country Friends hosted their annual spring membership luncheon at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, where women gathered for lunch and shopped clothing and art vendors for charity with ice tea glasses clinking.
Jeanne Lucia is the group's president. Lucia has been a Country Friends member for 12 years.
"I love Country Friends, it's very near and dear to my heart," Lucia said. "It gives me an outlet to give back and to serve my community."
Lucia's second term comes in a time of economic uncertainty, but she said she is confident that the Friends will stay strong.
"This year I especially feel is a crucial year for an organization like us to continue our mission and that's to give," Lucia said. "We're not pulling back. We're full steam ahead."
The Country Friends will host two large fundraisers during the year. On Aug. 23, they will have their first ever "Hats and Flats" event at the San Diego Polo Club.
On Sept. 24, South Coast Plaza will be back for the fifth year for their Art of Fashion outdoor fashion show.
While these events are big, Lucia said the bulk of their fundraising comes from the Country Friends Consignment Shop on El Tordo.
Shop on the corner
The shop, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., had an especially good April, according to volunteer Pat Storms.
In addition to selling large home furnishings such as sofas and tables, they also have a huge selection of artwork, silver, china, crystal and a table full of dainty teacups.
"We get a lot of stuff in that goes out very quickly," Storms said.
Storms said they have many regular customers.
"A lot of people don't even realize we're a charity," said Lucia of the shop.
Some of the items for sale are donated; others are on consignment, so the store receives a percentage of the sale.
The money generated by the shop goes to numerous charities such as Conner's Cause for Children, Operation Homefront, St. Paul's Retirement Home, San Pasqual School and Women's Resource Fund to name just a few.
The shop is staffed entirely by volunteers. Dottie Sutton and Marti Gibson have been working there for 19 years.
"I just love it, it's my favorite day of the week," said Storms of her Thursdays volunteering.
The Country Friends are always looking for donations to the shop, volunteer workers and new members.
"Country Friends is our family," Lucia said, "and we love new additions to our family."