Bridge club’s fund grows into financial win for Spelman students

These eight women are members of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club, which recently donated $100,000 to Spelman College to start a scholarship endowment for students, particularly those considering careers as teachers. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

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These eight women are members of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club, which recently donated $100,000 to Spelman College to start a scholarship endowment for students, particularly those considering careers as teachers. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

A group of ladies, mostly Spelman College alumna from the class of 1960, met occasionally after graduation for fellowship, often to play bridge, but they decided the gatherings needed an additional purpose.

For decades, they held an annual scholarship fundraiser and fashion show that helped students pay for college. They decided in 1996 to invest additional proceeds from the event in stocks, starting with $2,000.

The fund grew to $100,000, and the ladies, who called their organization the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club Inc., recently delivered the money to Spelman College for an endowment for students considering careers as educators or in science, technology, engineering and math. The college confirmed receiving the donation.

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Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

“We’re really excited about that,” said Miriam Stokes, 81, a 1962 Morris Brown College graduate who is part of the group.

Spelman, a historically Black college for women near downtown Atlanta, frequently receives multimillion-dollar donations, but they’re typically from wealthy business executives, foundations or celebrities. The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation recently donated $12 million to the school for an arts and innovation center. Yet nearly all of the women in the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club are retired educators — mostly from the Atlanta school system — with modest incomes. Through the years, these women used some of their own money for the scholarship luncheons.

“All of us have a strong passion for education,” said Jacquelyn Daniel, 83, who graduated from Spelman in 1960.

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The G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club held an annual scholarship luncheon and fashion show each year. This picture was taken at the last luncheon in 2019. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

The G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club held an annual scholarship luncheon and fashion show each year. This picture was taken at the last luncheon in 2019. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

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The G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club held an annual scholarship luncheon and fashion show each year. This picture was taken at the last luncheon in 2019. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“We were teachers and we wanted to keep that legacy going,” added Stokes, a “Grady baby” who retired after 40 years in the Atlanta school system and spent another 10 years there as a consultant.

The luncheons, held in November, were a big to-do. Hundreds gathered. The fashion show was an event with women in stylish gowns and glittering matching hats. Men dressed in tuxedos. Local television news reporters often hosted. Scholarship recipients received several thousand dollars.

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The G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club held an annual fashion show in conjunction with its scholarship luncheon. Attendees and models wore extravagant gowns and tuxedos. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

The G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club held an annual fashion show in conjunction with its scholarship luncheon. Attendees and models wore extravagant gowns and tuxedos. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

caption arrowCaption
The G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club held an annual fashion show in conjunction with its scholarship luncheon. Attendees and models wore extravagant gowns and tuxedos. (Courtesy of the G.I.R.L.S. Bridge Club)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The fund gradually increased over the years, but it plummeted to $20,000 during the Great Recession in 2008. Financial advisers told the ladies to keep the faith.

“Sure enough, it grew and grew,” said Daniel, who also spent 50 years as an APS educator.

The ladies decided this was the right year to create the endowment. They haven’t had the luncheon since the pandemic started. Some of the club members have died. (The group once had more than a dozen members; there are now eight.)

“We felt it would be used appropriately,” Daniel said.

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