Flat Rock was born when affluent Charlestonians began heading to Western North Carolina to build their summer estates. So it’s no surprise that what is most likely the village’s oldest still-running charity organization and now nonprofit, the Ladies Aid Society of Flat Rock, has Lowcountry beginnings, too. At least rumor has it.
“I think it was a spinoff of an organization in Charleston, still going, called the Ladies Benevolent Society,” says Ladies Aid member and constituent-recognized society historian Eleanor Flowers, although she doesn’t know for sure. But Flowers is certain the group’s mission has remained the same since they formed more than 100 years ago in 1880: helping those in the community who need it most.
Back then, they helped through fundraising bazaars and garden parties to provide food and firewood to their neighbors — in more recent years, through a loan closet that supplied hospital beds, walkers, and wheelchairs. But since 1980, the society has been raising money for charitable giving through their all volunteer- and member-run bookstore, the Flat Rock Book Exchange.
All books are donated, and all proceeds from the store go directly to the Henderson County-based charities they support: The Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County, Hearts With Hands’ Backpack Program, Historic Johnson Farm, Children and Family Resource Center’s Adolescent Parenting Program, Meals on Wheels, Four Seasons Compassion for Life, Hendersonville Rescue Mission, The Free Clinics, Mainstay, and Community Partnership for Pets.
Of course, they still host a benefit soiree from time to time these days — just not of the Victorian-garden variety. On June 20, Just Vino in Flat Rock will play party host for a wine-tasting fundraiser to benefit the Ladies Aid Society; all money raised will go directly to their recipient charities.
In other words, aside from growing in size — they now have around 90 members — the organization hasn’t changed much over the last century. “We all still work, give donations, give books to make money to keep charities going,” says Flowers. “We’re thankful that we still have the means that we can help some of the less fortunate people in our community.”
And, Flowers notes, they’re extremely grateful when they can connect with a community member their aid has benefited. At a recent society annual meeting, a speaker from one of the local charities they now support shared that decades ago, when he was a little boy growing up in East Flat Rock, the Ladies Aid Society set up a grocery fund for his family after his mother left and his father became extremely ill. It was that fund that made the difference whether they ate or didn’t. “This is what we help people do,” stresses Flowers, “to have a new life.”
The Ladies Aid Society and Flat Rock Book Exchange’s wine-tasting fundraiser happens at Just Vino (2702 Greenville Hwy.) on Saturday, June 20, 4-7pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Book Exchange or Just Vino; hors d’oeuvres will be served.