In 1974, several Orange Park Acres women created the OPA Garden Club reflecting their interest in gardening. As Orange Park Acres grew, many of the newer women employed gardeners and interest in the OPA Garden Club waned. In 1983, the women of Orange Park Acres renewed interest in the organization, giving it a broader purpose beyond gardening. Since that time the organization has actively supported the Orange Park Acres community. After a few years, the organization formalized itself, applying for tax exemption and incorporating. Since then the bylaws have been rewritten and a clear mission has been developed; Friendship, Philanthropy and Community.
Over the years, many OPAWL women have generously contributed their time and effort to organizational functions and varied fund-raising projects such as garage sales, barn, home, and garden tours, and social events. Such support and participation has made it possible for OPAWL to enrich individual lives, support special groups, and contribute to the community In the last several decades, OPAWL has contributed more than $ 200,000 to the community for trail support and beautification throughout Orange Park Acres.
In more recent years, the organization has also been engaged in numerous philanthropic endeavors such as 4H, the Orange County Zoo, The Friendly Center, Second Harvest, Mary’s Kitchen, the Beverly House, the U.S. Military and their families through the Armed Services YMCA, the Secret Santa program, support groups for mothers and children, and the El Modena High School Nature Center.
In 2012, OPAWL initiated a Santiago Canyon College Scholarship, awarded yearly to an outstanding female student. The winners, representing a variety of majors, have been impressive women scholars, who are committed to the betterment of society.
Also in 2012, plans for the beautification of the entrance to Orange Park Acres were brought to fruition with impressive monuments marking the entrance to Orange Park Acres. Amidst the mini-park, now named the Pony Park, a lovely bronze sculpture of two young children riding a pony offers a glimpse of Orange Park Acres life. OPAWL also adds to the holiday season by displaying brightly colored seasonal wreaths along Orange Park Boulevard.
In the last several years, communicating through technology—a newsletter, a website, Facebook, online registration, and Evites—has modernized the way the OPAWL delivers information among its members by strengthening the operational functions and providing the pleasure of a newsletter and a website to showcase its accomplishments and highlight its activities and events.
Members, however, do not forget the importance of being good neighbors and enjoying social activities together. Various “sections” offer small group opportunities for OPA women to share interests and enjoy each other’s company. OPAWL also has had new member socials, Valentine’s parties, St. Patrick’s Day Irish dinners, and Christmas parties. The Hot Trotters have yearly riding events, reflecting the deep interest in horsemanship and love of riding. Friendship and the shared enjoyment of social experiences in a rural equestrian community contribute to the richness of the organization and life in Orange Park Acres.
The Orange Park Acres Women’s League celebrated its 25th anniversary in September 2011. The mission of the organization—Friendship, Philanthropy, and Community—remains its significant focus.