Connecting women to women


For 60 years, the Women’s Association of Hilton Head has been connecting women throughout the Lowcountry. 

In preparation for the 60th anniversary celebration, there’s a lot to learn about WAHHI’s history and, more importantly, the association’s future plans. 

In January 1961, a group of 23 determined women formed the Hilton Head Garden Club to beautify Coligny Circle. In 1965, the name changed to the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island. Since then, the membership has grown to a community of more than 600 diverse women of all ages with a wide array of backgrounds and talents. Over time, the boundaries expanded beyond Hilton Head Island to include Bluffton and Daufuskie Island. 

Though much has changed over the years, WAHHI’s mission has remained the same — to promote the area’s natural and cultural beauty, to encourage projects which benefit the community, and to facilitate communication among women. 

“What a journey it has been for me,” said Betty Hambleton, a member of WAHHI for 21 years and incoming president for 2021-2022. “We are all about connecting women to women, growing, learning, and creating unique and new opportunities. We deeply care about each other and our community.” 

WAHHI’s commitment to the community is unwavering. The Difference Makers provide members the opportunity to contribute in many ways throughout the year. 

Their unique “difference-in-a-day” projects impact community life by collecting toys for children for the holidays, providing winter coats to the Children’s Center, baking cookies for first responders, collecting books for little libraries, providing welcome home bags for the military and others. 

For the past 40 years, WAHHI has given cash awards to high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding community service through the Youth Community Service Awards. The WAHHI Charitable Fund has contributed thousands of dollars in grants to eligible non-profits for programs which support the WAHHI mission. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, WAHHI’s leadership took on the challenge to rethink how the association could remain relevant to members and provide opportunities to stay connected. 

Drawing on tech-savvy members, they were able to quickly pivot live events to Zoom, converting many meetings and events to virtual or outside venues. The popular Author Series and Chef Series continue in 2021. There will be a new Environmental and Cultural Speaker series. New interests such as pickleball and golf have started this year, while other small groups have been on hiatus due to the pandemic. 

“Our WAHHI women have not only survived this year but have thrived,” Hambleton said. 

Recognition of the 60th anniversary begins with a virtual event on Feb. 17 via Zoom, featuring three speakers: Barbara Catenaci, Executive Director of The Heritage Library, Dr. Carolyn Grant, “Growing Up Local,” and Joni Vanderslice, CEO of J. Banks Design. 

They will share their experiences on WAHHI’s history, the Lowcountry community, and WAHHI’s heritage. On April 8, the celebration continues with an outdoor luncheon at the Coastal Discovery Museum. 

Learn more about WAHHI by attending a virtual informational event for prospective members via Zoom scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8 or Friday, March 5 at 10 a.m. Go to to register.