Friday October 24, 2014

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Friendship and faith at the After 5 Club

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(L-R) Elaine Bachorcik, Barb Gillies and Jen Howie are part of the Estevan Christian Women's After 5 Club. They say it's a great way to meet other women in the community while having a lot of fun.

They meet once a month to build friendships, socialize, enjoy a good meal, listen to informative and inspirational speakers, and grow in their faith.

The local Christian Women's After 5 Club has been part of the community for nearly four decades. There have been many changes in the club over the years, but it has always been a way for women to come together and have fun.

Barb Gillies and Elaine Bachorcik are the co-chairs of the club, and they have been attending meetings for many years. Jennifer Howie is on the planning team, too, as she helps coordinate the meetings each month.

The club usually meets on the third Wednesday of the month at Living Hope Community Church, although the get-togethers are occasionally on the fourth Wednesday. They don't meet in July and August. An average of about 40 women attend each meeting, but their attendance has been as high as 60.

A woman doesn't have to be a Christian to attend, and the club encourages people to bring their non-Christian friends.

Meetings begin with coffee and fellowship at 6:30 p.m., and a catered supper is served at 7 p.m. Food and music are staples of every meeting. Then there will be a featured local speaker who will discuss their business or the service that they provide to the community, and there will be a keynote speaker who will offer an inspirational message.

Everything is typically completed by 9 p.m.

"We're very good at keeping the meetings on time," Gillies said.

The After 5 Club is affiliated with Stonecroft Ministries Canada – a non-denominational organization that books the keynote speakers. Those speakers often visit Estevan as part of a circuit that also includes three clubs in Regina and one in Fort Qu'Appelle.

"Our mission statement is to impact women and the communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ, so I think it's very important to keep inviting women so that they can hear how Jesus has impacted other women's lives, and take that into their own life, and have hope for the future," said Bachorcik.

Gillies, Bachorcik and Howie are quick to point out that the club doesn't have a membership fee, but there is a cost to attend the supper.

"The benefit is just to connect with other women in the community, especially for newcomers who don't necessarily know a lot of people in Estevan," said Howie.

Howie knows from personal experience on how the club can introduce those who have recently arrived in Estevan to new friends. She started attending in 2004, a few years after she and her husband had relocated to the Energy City. A friend she was babysitting for invited her to attend a meeting.

"Right away the club had me making phone calls," said Howie. "I think it was about two months later when they realized I was becoming a regular."

Gillies loves the fellowship element of the club.

"It's an evening of enjoyment for the ladies that come, and they hear the speaker tell her story," said Gillies.

The keynote speaker each month will address how she became a Christian, and what Jesus Christ has done in her life.

"They explain how the ladies there can have the same hope," Gillies said.

Most people who become involved with a Stonecroft Ministries-affiliated club are invited by a friend of a relative, they said.

The club was in danger of folding a few years ago. Attendance was still strong, but they struggled to find people who could sit on the planning committee. Gillies was asked to be the chair, and after some hesitancy, agreed to take the leadership position, but only after they found a co-chair, a role occupied by Bachorcik.

The club is supposed to have a rotation of the different leadership positions, but Gillies has always been in the co-chair's role, even though she believes others are ready to step forward to run the meetings.

About a dozen women sit on the planning team, and there is an assistant for each planning team position.

The club attracts women of different ages, which pleases Bachorcik, Gillies and Howie. "One of the things that I have enjoyed seeing is the younger women coming into the club, and developing self-confidence, learning how they can work with other women," said Gillies.

As the women develop that self-confidence, they become more comfortable in different leadership roles, Gillies said. 

Many of the keynote speakers at the Estevan meetings have been impressed with how many young people are in the club, Gillies said.

When Howie first joined the club 10 years ago, she said she was the youngest person at the meeting, other than the woman who invited her.

The youngest person at recent meetings has been Bachorcik's 10-year-old granddaughter, who enjoys coming to the gatherings, and appears to be part of a future generation of After 5 participants.

The club is looking to introduce a nursery in the near future. It's a concept that has a lot of support, and they hope that it will boost attendance.

"There have been some ladies expressing an interest, but because of husbands working shift work or in the oil patch, the ladies say 'I would come, but I don't have anybody to watch my kids,'" said Howie.

The club offers more than just meetings. They have a prayer connection a few days before the monthly get-together to pray for the women in the club and for the meeting.

Gillies and Bachorcik also host Bible studies, which are optional to attend. Gillies' Bible study is Monday evenings for city residents. Bachorcik's is on Thursday afternoons for rural women.

The next monthly meeting will be on Wednesday, February 19. The meeting will be their annual fashion show, which they said is a popular event. Each woman is encouraged to bring a guest, and it's the one night a year in which men are allowed to attend.


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