Farber thrives at D.C. post

Lisa Depies
LOIS FARBER, fourth from left, of Geneseo recently spent two years as special assistant to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs international president Jacquelyn Pierce, right. The pair are pictured with the international president’s fellow assistants on the stairway of the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

When Lois Farber of Geneseo joined the local Junior?Woman’s Club chapter in 1982, she did it as a favor for a neighbor.

“I joined in 1982, because my neighbor’s daughter-in-law was going to be the club president. At the time, I thought, ‘I’ll only stay in two years,’” said Farber.

But, Farber believed in the missions and projects undertaken by the Junior Woman’s Club and 26 years later, she remains active in the organization.

So active, in fact, she recently completed a two-year term as the special assistant to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs’ international president Jacquelyn Pierce.

“When Pierce was the Illinois state president and I was the regional director of Junior clubs, we became close friends,” said Farber.

When?Pierce was elected to serve a two-year term as international president, she asked Farber to be one of her honorary assistants.

Each international president is allowed to select one special assistant, four presidential assistants and four honorary assistants.

The woman originally asked to be Pierce’s special assistant had to withdraw, and Farber said she was moved up from honorary assistant to special assistant.

“Most assignments are given out a year or two ahead of time, so you have a chance to prepare. I came in after the fact,” said Farber.

Pierce’s term started in June 2006, and Farber joined her as a special assistant in July.

The General?Federation of Women’s Clubs’ headquarters are located in a Civil-War era home near DuPont Circle in?Washington, D.C.

“Eleanor Roosevelt actually recommended the house to the GFWC. At the time, she had a home kitty-corner from it, and she knew the building was coming up for sale,” said Farber.

With the international president’s office located in Washington, D.C., Farber said her position as special assistant required her to commute regularly to the nation’s capital.

As special assistant, Farber’s duties required her to be a jack-of-all-trades. “I was in charge of assisting her with anything she needed, from helping set up board packets to buying floral arrangements.”

As international president, Pierce met regularly with GFWC leaders and national leaders regarding GFWC concerns, including the organization’s key issue, domestic abuse.

“Domestic violence affects both men and women and includes child abuse,” said Farber.”

To help draw attention to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs’ projects, social events are held throughout the year at the organization’s headquarters. It is the duty of the president’s assistants to help organize the events.

“It’s important for us to present a good face, because it helps us get our many programs and projects accomplished,” said Farber.

A highlight of the headquarter’s annual event schedule is the organization’s Christmas open house.

The first Christmas Farber was in Washington, D.C., more than 250 people attended the open house. “The staff thought we’d have half that many,” said Farber. “They told us that, in Washington, people RSVP to events, but don’t necessarily come.

“We had so many people, I ended up in the kitchen washing dishes off so we’d have enough dishes to be able to feed people,” she said.

Because the international president has an interior decorating degree, Farber said it was important the home be well decorated for all seasons.

“We would decorate for fall, for Christmas, for Valentine’s Day, everything. It would take us two days just to put up the Christmas tree,” she said.

As special assistant, Farber also would help organize the GFWC’s annual conventions. In 2006, the convention was in San Antonio, Texas, followed by the 2007 convention in Philadelphia and the 2008 convention in Chicago.

During the conventions and other events hosted by the organization, Farber said she had the opportunity to meet “so many motivational people” including Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, actress Robin Givens, etiquette expert Peggy Post and Susan?Retik, who co-founded “Beyond the 11th” a charitable organization designed to help Afghan women.

“It was nothing to go to bed at 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m. and then wake up at 6 a.m. as we tried to get everything done,” explained Farber.

“Jackie was one of the most endearing international president’s we’ve had in a long time. She’s very innovative,” she said.

Pierce, who is from Barrington, was the GFWC’s first president from Illinois in 52 years.

Now that her term as special assistant is at an end, Farber said it’s taking time to adjust to a more normal routine.

“I don’t know what to do if I’m not on the computer, not on the phone, not making schedules ...” she joked.

Farber continues to be a member of the Geneseo Junior Woman’s Club.

LOIS ?FARBER, left, of Geneseo is shown with actress Robin Givens. Farber met Givens during her time as special assistant to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs’ international president.