Dallas’ Union Station will pose for an evening as a 1930’s European train depot when the Lakewood Service League hosts its 16th annual Charity Ball on Feb. 6. But “Venture on the Orient Express” won’t be merely the evening’s theme. A trip on the legendary train, donated by Abercrombie and Kent, will be one of the items auctioned at the black tie event, along with weekend getaways, jewelry, and restaurant and store gift certificates.

The ball, with its live and silent auctions, is the major fundraiser for the service league. The group donates proceeds to organizations which serve East Dallas. Last year, for example, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society received scholarships to enable underprivileged youths to attend summer activities. Meals on Wheels, the Literacy Center at Lakewood Elementary School, and Our Friend’s Place, a program for abused girls were also funded. In all, more than 25 organizations received almost $60,000 last year, courtesy of the League.

But financial support is only part of what the Lakewood Service League provides. As its name implies, “a lot of what we do is volunteer,” says Mary Huntress, who is in charge of publicity for the ball.

In the early 1980’s, a group of women – “our founding mothers,” says group member Kitty Ring – began working with the Parks and Recreation Department to revitalize Lakewood Park. By donating not only equipment but their labor, they transformed what was then a muddy creek bottom into the popular playground and picnic spot it is today. League members continue to maintain the park even as the group has grown into a fundraising and service organization serving all of East Dallas.

New members are selected each year in March, from nominations made by current members. There are no other requirements except a willingness to pledge 35 hours annually to the betterment of the community, explains Huntress. “It’s first come, first served” in terms of member selection, she says.

Members range in age from 23 to 60, and women with work commitments are more than welcome. Eighty to 85 percent of the women in the league hold jobs, including City Councilwoman Mary Poss. “We’re really proud that with diminishing time, we’ve adapted to [the needs] of working women,” says Ring.

To do the work the organization wants, it must raise funds. Hence the annual ball. Tickets to this year’s event are $85 each and include dinner, wine service, and valet parking. Attendees may also bid in the auctions and dance to a big band sound. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. and continue until 1 a.m. To purchase tickets or to make a donation, call 214-890-2626. Information on the league is also available at the organization’s web site: lakewoodserviceleague.org.

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