The Women's Leadership Council turned back the clock Thursday night to raise money for the future — the children of the Quad-Cities.

In keeping with the gala's 1920s-inspired theme, women dressed in flapper dresses, boas, sequined headbands and cloches while men were decked out in black suits and fedoras. Greeted by period cars and a red carpet, almost 200 celebrated in style at Davenport's Crow Valley Golf Club to help the United Way council near the end of a lofty $2.5 million goal to build a new Early Learning Center for the Scott County Family Y.

 "We're $66,000 away from goal — we should be able to make it," WLC co-founder Linda Bowers said as the evening began. "As I walked in here tonight, my heart was in my throat. We're about to cross the finish line." Tickets were $250 each.

In fact, by the end of the evening organizers said they were very close to the goal the group had done what it set out to do two years ago — raise $2.5 million across the community to build the new center. The center will be located on the former W.G. Block property on the east edge of downtown Davenport.

Deb Gustafson, the Y's executive director of childcare and family services and a 20-year employee, still could not believe the bright future for her center. "This all started with United Way saying 'We have a group of women who want to work with childcare centers, and they're dedicated to make a difference,' " she recalled.

From that, the women's council chose the downtown Y's center and Skip-A-Long Daycare as partner agencies and already has been making positive changes. ''We are so blessed. We never would have dreamed this could happen," Gustafson said.

The Y, which eventually will build its own new facility on the site, purchased the property near 4th Street and River Drive in late 2012. Gustafson said the Y plans to break ground in the spring on the childcare center.

The Women’s Leadership Council traces its roots to 2009 when it was founded as an arm of United Way by Bowers, co-owner and co-founder of LinguiSystems Inc.; Lee Enterprises Chairman and CEO Mary Junck; and former Quad-City Times Publisher Julie Bechtel.

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In its short tenure, the group has recruited almost 100 charter members, all of whom invested $2,500 each for a total of 10 percent of the campaign goal. The remainder was raised by the council's Give Committee, made up of Bowers, Junck and Caroline Ruhl, former co-chair.

Scott Crane, United Way's president, shook his head in amazement at what they accomplished. "We don't build buildings — it's not what we do (at United Way). But we're building a building, and it never could have been done without their passion and commitment."

Sitting and enjoying the smooth sounds of Josh Duffee and The Graystone Monarchs, Dr. Joan Kuraitis, the council's current co-chair, said the evening was only a beginning of the group's plans for improving childcare and early learning for the area's children. "It doesn't end here tonight." 

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