ALAMOSA — Theresa Rudder of Alamosa is “stepping” into the role of Colorado Federation of Women's Clubs president, and she has the shoes for it.
The new president’s motto, accompanied by the symbol of a red shoe, is “Step Up — Lead; Step Out — Volunteer. Small acts change the world.”
She said, “The things we do are small acts, but they make a difference in our communities. If you weren’t there, what would your community look like?”
Over the course of the next two years of her leadership in the state General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), Rudder will ask members to step up to leadership, membership, public awareness, special projects, community service programs, financial stability and management and governance.
Installed at the state convention in Pueblo on May 4, the new president is wasting no time in her new leadership role over the 278 members and 14 clubs in the state, including two in the San Luis Valley, Woman’s Citizenship Club, Rudder’s home club in Alamosa, and Town and Country Club in Center. (GFWC embraces 80,000 members nationally and internationally.)
Rudder is also wasting no time in supporting her special project, the Mesa Verde National Park. She explained that it was the efforts of Colorado Federation of Women’s Clubs members that saved the Mesa Verde ruins more than a century ago. Virginia McClurg and Lucy Peabody rallied initial support for the ruins at a Colorado Federation of Women’s Clubs state convention in Pueblo in 1897.
The statewide club, with support from the national club, raised about $1,500 to upgrade a sign that acknowledges the club’s efforts in preserving these ruins.
One of Rudder’s goals as president over the next two years is to support Mesa Verde National Park by funding special projects and physically volunteering time.
Her symbol is a shoe. “We want women to step up,” she said. In order to step up, however, women need leadership training, which is available through the organization but requires funding. During her inaugural speech last weekend she gave attendees little red shoeboxes and asked them to deposit a dime a day in their boxes to support the club budget, with one of her goals to sponsor leadership training for members. A dime a day per member would provide $36.50 a year, or more than $10,000 if every member contributed a dime a day.
Rudder’s colors are black and white, colors that go well together and are empowering, with a splash of red, signifying leadership, energy and a pioneering spirit.
One of the signature projects for the GFWC is domestic violence awareness and prevention, and the Valley clubs have assisted Tu Casa with various projects — “in whatever ways they want us” — whether it was cleaning supplies or toiletries or healing bags, which include items such as lotions, stress balls and hygiene products. The clubs were big supporters of the Children’s Advocacy Center and sold 500 blue pinwheels to help raise funds for it. The members continue to support the center with whatever supplies are needed.
Rudder said GFWC concentrates on arts, education, conservation, civic involvement and home life. Many clubs do fundraisers for scholarships, for example, and the Woman’s Citizenship Club hosts an annual spring luncheon to raise money for scholarships for nontraditional female students to attend Adams State University and Trinidad State Junior College. The Town and Country Club also provides scholarship funding.
Clubs support conservation through efforts like planting trees, which the local clubs have done, and civic projects such as libraries. GFWC was instrumental in establishing 75 percent of the libraries in the U.S. The local club started the Friends of the Library group to support the Alamosa Public Library, and Library Manager Salai Taylor is a member of the club.
“We have partners around the world,” Rudder said. GFWC partners with many helping agencies such as Shot At Life, providing immunizations around the world, Operation Smile, repairing cleft lips and palates, Canine Companion service dog program, March of Dimes, UNICEF and Heifer International, which provides simple animals like cows, goats and rabbits to impoverished families who then pay it forward by giving offspring from their livestock to their neighbors to help them better sustain themselves.
Another project supported locally and internationally through the GFWC is the HOBY youth leadership training established by actor Hugh O’Brian. The leadership conferences help youth who show potential for leadership to realize that potential.
Some of the other special projects the GFWC have undertaken over the years were buying bombers during World War II and purchasing and outfitting a fire truck to replace one lost at 9/11.
“We do things globally, we do things nationally and, and we do things locally,” Rudder said.
Organized in 1895, the GFWC mission is: “The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.”
Rudder’s introduction to the GFWC family was 14 years ago when the late Margaret Davis invited her to a meeting. Theresa and husband Jack, a retired educator who serves as a Veteran’s Service Officer, have been involved in living history programs, and Theresa has always volunteered in community service areas, so membership in the GFWC was a logical step.
She was also drawn to an organization comprised of such strong women. Members over the years have included First Ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Barbara Bush.
“Who would have thought that Theresa Savala from Walsenburg, Colorado would grow up and be installed as the 62nd president of the Colorado Federation of Women’s Clubs?” she said during her installation speech.
She is the seventh woman from the San Luis Valley to serve as president of the statewide organization, and two women from Colorado have served as presidents of the international organization. Theresa Rudder will participate in further installation ceremonies at the international convention in June in St. Louis.
Theresa and Jack, who have celebrated 47 years of marriage, moved to the San Luis Valley in 1973 and have one son Robert, a chef at Trinchera Ranch. Theresa worked for 30 years for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as the regional care coordinator for a health care program for children with special needs. She retired in 2005.
She and Jack have been involved in living history programs for many years, primarily at Fort Garland. Theresa Rudder served as president of the Friends of Fort Garland for eight years and is still involved with the group.
She is also involved with the United Methodist Church in Alamosa and is a certified lay speaker.
In addition, she is a member of the community advisory board for the Rocky Mountain Prevention Center, a position she has held for more than 20 years.
Rudder continues her community service efforts through GFWC locally and statewide.
“I love my club members,” she said. “They are my sisters.”
During her installation speech she thanked her fellow sisters in the Woman’s Citizenship Club and thanked the broader membership for its support during her preview to the presidency and to the team that will help her lead GFWC Colorado.
“As the incoming team of GFWC Colorado, we have a responsibility to maintain the legacy and integrity of our organization as well as to make it grow and stay vital,” she said. “With your help and the team we will build, we can do it…Now let’s put on our high heeled shoes, our walking shoes, our combat boots, our running shoes, our bedroom slippers, our loafers, our flip-flops or our cowboy boots and step up and step out for GFWC Colorado!”