. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IWC to Break With Children's Charity

The International Women's Club has voted to sever its ties with Action for Russia's Children, the charitable arm of the organization, after a rift within ARC led to the resignation of its president last month.

Unnar Gunnarsson, president of the IWC, said Tuesday that the club's steering committee decided Monday to withdraw sponsorship by the summer from the organization, which helps Moscow orphanages by raising funds and providing food, clothing and medical care.

She declined to provide any details, saying only: "I will have no comment about this spin-off until I have spoken to the members of ARC because we don't feel it's proper to put it in the paper before they have heard. We will continue to be supportive of ARC and we will help them recruit." Other members of the steering committee also declined comment.

IWC has been one of the major sources of funds for the children's charity, donating this year most of the $73,000 in proceeds from its Christmas bazaar in December.

ARC will rely more heavily on corporate donations, a base it started to build last year, Tina Nelson, a spokeswoman for ARC, said Tuesday.

"I was somewhat disappointed but I realized it would have happened sooner or later," she said about the vote to break ties.

"We think of it as leaving the nest. It was inevitable -- we were growing so much that in effect we outgrew the IWC and the original aims of their welfare group."

Jill Blonsky, who served as the organization's president for the last 3 1/2 years, resigned last month, saying there was no longer any room for women without professional experience in childcare problems.

Meanwhile, ARC is operating without a president until elections scheduled for next month.

Nelson has disputed Blonsky's stance, saying, "ARC values all 120 of its volunteers, regardless of their status."

While Nelson acknowledged that some of ARC's active members might drop out as a result of the changes, she said the organization will now target a wider spectrum of the expatriate community -- specifically, men will now be able to participate in the charity.

She said the goal of ARC's eight-person governing board is to get more corporate sponsors. Nelson would not release specific financial information, but she said corporate donations were larger than those from IWC. Nelson said 75 companies, including Arthur Andersen, Proctor & Gamble and Chevron, assisted ARC either with supplies or funding.

"The IWC was one of our sponsors and indeed one of our biggest sponsors," Nelson said. "But our volunteers are our biggest resource."

A Proctor & Gamble representative said the changed status of ARC would not affect the company's decision last February to donate $1,000 to the charity. "The importance is, of course, to help and not get entangled in organizational problems," said Uri Molozhatov, a company spokesman. "The important thing is to help babies."

The IWC itself has grown dramatically since it was founded 18 years ago, largely as a social outlet for the wives of members of the diplomatic corps. Today, the group has 1,200 members, which makes it the largest organization of its kind in Moscow.

With the relaxing of government restrictions in the 1980s and significant growth of the foreign community, women's clubs like IWC have increasingly focused on charitable work.

And the IWC's charitable group also blossomed, growing from a group of 20 women who called themselves the Welfare Group of the IWC to a professionally run volunteer organization, renamed ARC last year, with 120 active members.

Nancy Galloway, director of the United Way, said the move would be good for ARC.

"There are sometimes restrictions with being linked with a larger organization. Sometimes by-laws get in the way and I'm sure the move to cast off ARC was purely administrative," she said.

"I think it's fantastic that they're so successful that they are able to stand on their own two feet. ARC seems to be becoming less specific -- they're branching out beyond orphanages."

Marjorie Farquharson, director of the Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation, which provides financial services for charities, said the change in the relationship between ARC and the IWC was not uncommon.

"I think it's a normal phenomenon when something grows -- they outgrew their own parent," Farquharson said. "In the nonprofit sector, organizations often evolve out of each other."

Farquharson added that ARC had a big challenge ahead. "There are tremendous legal problems working in Russia that date back to having a state economy," she said.

"But I think ARC is a very lively, dynamic, and increasingly professional organization and I think that it's a good thing to become more professional. The organizations meet different needs," she said.