It’s the third Tuesday of the month and a group of a dozen women wearing silly hats they decorated themselves are gathered for a tea party at Unicoi Springs Camp Resort in Helen.
Some of the hats sport first aid supplies and others have flowers. And some have anything and everything sticking out of them.
It’s all part of the fun for the group, Ladies Time Out.
Between sips of tea and bites of delicacies, the women discuss their latest project — a recipe book to raise funds for the RV campground in Helen.
This monthly meeting is almost routine now. Each month has a theme — May’s was silly hats. The women dress according to the theme and socialize with each other before getting down to business — being philanthropic.
The women develop a specific project to tackle and an agency or group to receive the benefits. Once the project is complete, which may take weeks or months to finish, the group starts all over again.
Picking a benefactor has been part of the process since Nancy Stearns founded the group in August.
“We wrote down suggestions of places in need, put them in a bowl and took one out and contacted the place,” Stearns said of how the group chooses their projects. “Everyone has something that they’re kind of close to. So we just take all of the suggestions out and I’ll check on it to see what it is.”
But helping people in need was not the reason Ladies Time Out was started. The group began as a place for women who visit Unicoi Springs, a member-owned mountain RV resort, to come together and relax.
Stearns said even though a family may be at the campground, the women often complete the same tasks they do at home, such as cooking, cleaning and washing clothes. Taking “time out” from those tasks and socializing with each other is how the group and its name came to fruition.
The number of women who attend Ladies Time Out fluctuates each month. Last summer, about 15-20 came to the meet ups. During the winter, the number dwindled to four or six because less people stayed at the campground. Winter 2015 to 2016 was the first time the campground stayed open year-round.
Many women are regulars, including Ernestine Browning, who likes to spend time at the camp despite it being more than 300 miles from her Ridgeville home.
“I’m a people person and I love people and I like the fellowship,” Browning said of what’s kept her coming back.
Letha Kinard of Flovilla is another regular participant. She travels almost 150 miles from her home to the campground.
“I like that they’re involved in activities that are outside the campground, that they reach out into the community,” she said.
Since its beginning, the group has worked on several outreach projects. The recipe book is their latest project.
As of the May 17 meeting, 199 recipes had been collected from group members, their friends and family, and a few more are still expected.
The book’s proceeds will be donated to the campground. Cookbooks can be purchased for $10 by calling the office at Unicoi Springs at 706-878-2104. Books may be picked up at the office when they arrive or shipped for an additional $3.50.
At the May meeting, the women voted to recommend to the campground’s board the funds be used for the on-site playground, which consists of slides, swings, a sandbox, a climbing structure and monkey bars.
Stearns noted this is the first time the group has raised money for the campground, but it helps keep expenses down and assists with the upkeep of the area.
The Ladies Time Out group has helped several area organizations mostly in White County. Their first project was knitting and donating yarn caps for child cancer patients at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s at Egleston. Next the group gathered warm coats, gloves, shoes, socks and sweaters for children in the White County Head Start program.
After that the group collected items a local battered women’s shelter needed. The group donated 10 boxes of supplies.
“(The boxes) were filled with those items, mostly cleaning items, some personal items,” Stearns said.
Next the women helped a nearby nursing home by making and donating sensory quilts and mats for dementia patients. The mats help stimulate and soothe stroke, dementia, autistic and Alzheimer patients.
“Everybody that comes just has that give back mind-set,” Stearns said. “We’re all in our 70s, 80s, most of us, and this is what we can do. A lot of ladies belonged to organizations at home that did that sort of things.”
The next Ladies Time Out meeting will be 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at Unicoi Springs Camp Resort, 2444 Ga. 356 North, in Helen. The group is open to all Unicoi Springs owners and their guests.
For more information about the resort, the Ladies Time Out Group or the cookbook, call 706-878-2104.