Charity Circle Shares 110 Year History of Community Service


People living in poverty have always been hit the worst by hard times, and 110 years ago twenty-six young unmarried women from Murfreesboro got together to do something about it. They created an organization called Charity Circle, which was created to help the poor with basic needs and services. While there are now 150 women in the organization of all ages and professions, their mission remains the same.

“We have nine charities for which we are major funders,” said Collier Smith, Charity Circle Publicity Chair, “and last year we donated four hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars to 35 non-profits in Rutherford County. Because of COVID-19, we have given additional funding to Journey Home and Nourish Food Bank to help them supply needy families with food.”

This additional funding stays focused on their core mission of helping those in need with food, shelter, and medical insecurities. Charity Circle has made it their mission to be aware of the biggest needs in the community from the very beginning.

In 1912, the first Charity Circle project was completed. The young women had raised $400 and organized the donation of supplies and labor to build a Mission Church. For many years these young women supplied education, food, clothing, and coal to local residents. In other words, they created the very first on-going non-profit organization in the county that directly dealt with the needs of those less fortunate than themselves.

Their now famous Caroling Parties started in 1915 to raise funds, and they have been taking place ever since. Past members share stories of standing around the piano as Dot Harrison, who was also involved with Murfreesboro Little Theater and working for Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), played. Harrison, as well as many others, are gone now, but their passion for service burns on in new members.

Always keeping their finger on the pulse of the community, during World War II, the organization began to focus their efforts on affordable childcare – as women went to work and men went to battle – and summer recreation for children. The summer programs they created eventually became Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation. And in 1967, the Circle Day Care Center was opened on Spring Street.

With the rising cost of medicine taking place in the 1990s, they began the Medical Emergency Fund to help the working poor with medical bills. And in 1996, they began an MTSU Scholarship Fund.

Recently they celebrated at home with their “No Go Duck Ball.” The Duck Ball is one of the parties of the season, and it raises many of the funds the organization gives back to the community. The gala event draws hundreds to a night of dancing and their famous auction – this organization started the first silent and live charity auctions in Murfreesboro years ago.

April 25 was the day the 53rd Annual Duck Ball was supposed to take place, with their annual Patron’s Party just before set to happen at the home of Dr. John and Julie Zubkus on April 18. When sponsors decided to go forward with their donations to the organization, the members of the organization took to social media to celebrate the event at home, raising more than $120,000.

“Once again, the Rutherford County community came through for our local nonprofits,” said Anne Davis, the current club president. “Charity Circle leaders were completely overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for the first-ever ‘NO SHOW’ Duck Ball. One hundred and twelve sponsors undergirded the fundraising efforts with solid support. Many, many others bought $200 “NO SHOW’ tickets on the newly launched website, and provided gifts of every size, encouraged by our social media push.”

The organization now gives to many organizations, from those dealing with children, to those dealing with hunger, to those dealing with the needs of seniors. Some of their beneficiaries include  Special Kids, Read to Succeed, Mindful Care, CASA of Rutherford County, and Doors of Hope, among others. First club president, Ellen Douglas, is proud of how the organization has grown and all it has done for Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.

While the Duck Ball and Patron’s Party is their largest event, they have five other events besides the caroling: From Cocktails at Copper Ridge slated for July 16 to their Ladies Christmas Luncheon. The organization reaches out during every season because the need for providing food, shelter, and medical needs continues to increase. Especially now.

“Murfreesboro is the most giving community in middle Tennessee,” added Davis, “and [the NO SHOW Duck Ball] proved no exception. We are grateful for the extreme kindness of our donors and are thrilled to report that donations continue.”

For more information about Charity Circle and their work in the community, got to