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Calendar Girls style fundraiser supports Alternatives for Women

Calendar photos by Dave Robinet

By Sharon Harrison
A DVD picked up at a garage sale became the catalyst for a fundraiser by County women, for County women.

The British movie ‘Calendar Girls’ was one of a handful of DVDs Christine Trulsen picked up at the Wellington on the Lake garage sale last May.
It wasn’t the first time Trulsen had seen the 2003 blockbuster film starring Helen Mirren, but an idea formed that day to re-create a calendar along similar lines to the one in the movie, and with the help of about two dozen residents at Wellington on the Lake, the County calendar girls project was born.

The original comedy is based on the true story of a group of middle-aged Women’s Institute members from Yorkshire who produced a tastefully nude calendar to raise money for leukemia research honouring the recent cancer death of one their members’ husband.

Trulsen had seen the movie many times before, but that day she was inspired to replicate the calendar.

“I had four or five ladies around me, and they all immediately said ‘I would do that’,” said Trulsen.

More than 30 women got together to watch the movie.

“Afterwards, we seriously talked to see if we should start the project,” said Trulsen, and 21 courageous ladies agreed to come on board.

What Trulsen and friends didn’t anticipate was the huge undertaking that was to ensue. What followed was a colossal endeavour involving planning, organizing and decision-making where skills, experiences and ideas were brainstormed. An organizing committee was formed with sub-teams covering financing, marketing, operations, the launch and so on.

Having been emulated by countless womens’ groups around the world, the calendar idea is not a new one, but it was a first for the group of ladies now calling themselves ‘Ladies on the Rocks’.

Ladies on the Rocks organizers Pam Smith and Christine Trulsen. – Sharon Harrison photo

“We discussed names and many names came up. We wanted a connection with Wellington without pointing Wellington out. We brainstormed, we wanted ‘ladies’ or ‘women’, then someone in the meeting said ‘Don’t you think we rock?’ and it stuck and that’s how we ended up with Ladies on the Rocks.”

“Technically, we are on the rocks,” adds organizer Pam Smith, referring to the calendar’s cover page captured on the rocks near the Wellington lighthouse pier. “The lighthouse is an iconic structure everyone can relate to, especially the tourists.”

The ladies knew they wanted proceeds from the sale of the calendars to go to a worthy local organization so the group discussed several ideas.

The Calendar Girls Project decided all proceeds from the sale of calendars would go to Picton-based Alternatives for Women, an organization offering confidential help for abused women in Prince Edward County.

“Somebody suggested Alternatives for Women as they are in the process of purchasing, or have just purchased, a property and are turning it into a place of residence for a transitional time period for women,” said Trulsen. “We want to give money for whatever they need.”

“We are a group of women helping women, so that was important,” said Smith. Trulsen agreed that it was a strong motivation.

“Printing is the only cost we have. We have no other costs, everything else is on a volunteer basis like our time, the photographer (minimal cost), it’s all volunteer,” said Trulsen.

While there is no dream number for the calendar sales, they are looking at selling as many as possible to raise a significant donation for Alternatives for Women.

Twenty-one beautiful and spirited female residents from the adult community of Wellington on the Lake, ranging in age from late-‘50s to 85, not only had to find a professional photographer for the task, but had to decide on suitable locations throughout Prince Edward County for the photographs.

“We made the decision first that we wanted activities that we do here in our community as the background, because we wanted to promote us,” said Trulsen. “But then we switched the focus and then we said, why are we not promoting businesses in the County and take pictures there?”

It was decided numerous local businesses would be approached and almost everyone contacted willingly jumped on board to be a part of the project. Locations were decided, seasonally-appropriate images agreed upon and professional photographer Dave Robinet gave his time, energy and expertise to the project at no charge.

“Trying to get everything organized is a bit like herding cats,” says Smith. “You’ve got the businesses, you’ve got the photographer, you’ve got the ladies, and in some cases you’ve got weather issues if it’s an outdoor thing. It was mind-boggling to get everything together.”

“It was matching two dozen people with 14 businesses and seasons,” adds Trulsen. As an example, pumpkins are only ready in October, but it was so cold, they were unable to do the shots outside, so they had to move everything inside.

The Calendar Girls Project visited Prince Edward County Lavender (July 2020) and Sunflower Fields Ice Cream Shoppe (August 2020) as well as Lockyer’s Country Gardens, Hagerman Farms and The June Motel.

The 2020 14-month calendar starts in December 2019 and includes the Festival Players of Prince Edward County, Stache on Main Piano Lounge, Prince Edward Fitness and Aquatic Centre, the Grange of Prince Edward, The Manse Boutique Inn, By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery and Vineyard and Midtown Brewing Company.

The calendar is to be launched mid-April and will be available at all participating businesses plus many other locations throughout the County, retailing for $20.

The big reveal came last November when all of the women got together for an evening to view all of the final photographs. Up until then, the ladies had only seen the photograph where they had individually appeared. “That was a fun evening. We giggled and we laughed.

“There were a lot of new friendships established among us and in the process, we found out that each of us has quite a story behind as well, so it almost justified our cause,” said Trulsen. “Some of us came from abusive relationships,” adds Smith.

“There’s also a lot of memories,” she said. “A lot of good memories,” adds Trulsen.

“Women didn’t always have it easy, but we are in the position to help women.”

Some of the participants felt out of their comfort zone taking their clothes off, Trulsen said, “But the way we did it was very decent with the photographer who positioned everybody fully-clothed. The ladies moved into position for the shot then removed their clothes.”

The photographer took five to 10 pictures of each shot and the group of ladies involved chose which one they liked best.

“The discomfort was probably amongst ourselves as we are not used to getting disrobed even in front of our families. It’s not something you do, it’s awkward, but in the end it was fine,” said  Smith.

The Ladies on the Rocks would appreciate hearing from businesses interested in purchasing a large number of calendars, or cash donations, to help offset further printing costs. For further information, contact Cathy Ness at lotr.treasurer@gmail.com

“The best help for us would be if people could declare an interest in purchasing say 10 calendars, or if a business could buy say 25,” says Trulsen. “Knowing how many were pre-sold would give us an idea about the numbers and we know we would have the money coming in.”

(EDITED – The group no longer needs stand alone frames)

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