Story and Photography By Carolyn Bowers

Look out, Martha Stewart. When it comes to setting a beautiful, whimsical or seasonal table, the ladies in St. James are viable competition for you. They did it for a worthy cause, and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

In October 2011 the women in the St. James Service Club decorated 20 tables for their 2nd Annual Tiptoe through the Tables fund-raiser, and they raised more than $7,000 for Brunswick County organizations. The theme was “Children Are in Our Hearts,” so all of the proceeds went to organizations that benefit children: Providence Home, Brunswick County Literacy Council, Smart Start and the Boys and Girls Home of Lake Waccamaw.

Sue Jones, committee chair of the event, estimated that nearly 100 volunteers were involved with decorating the tables, making up the raffle baskets and baking the cupcakes.

“It was a big undertaking,” she says. “An undertaking with compassion. We all have a real interest in seeing that the children in Brunswick County have a good home and are given the chance to learn how to read.”

Each of the 20 decorated tables had a story behind it. Many reflected the decorator’s interest in the life and style of another country. The “Russian Chai” table represented a typical country peasant table set for afternoon tea, with the teapot sitting on top of a 2-foot samovar to keep the tea hot all afternoon, in case a passerby should decide to stop in.

The “Luncheon at Keukenhof” table reflected the decorator/artist’s love for flowers and the beauty of Holland. Her delicate light blue, peach and pink china was complemented by a large floral centerpiece and miniatures she painted of tulips and windmills.

Twenty-three neighborhood friends, mostly from Northern Virginia, have been collecting everything that has anything to do with flamingos for years, and most of it appeared on their “Flamingo Festiva” table. And as if the flamingo-decorated margarita glasses, napkin holders and palm tree centerpiece were not enough, they even had a life-size bird holding a wine bottle next to their table.

A group of relatively recent retirees to the South celebrated their new lifestyle with a “White Coastal Christmas,” using silver and white sand dollars, starfish and whelks to decorate their centerpiece tree and evergreen base.

Forming a nice contrast to the white, the Red Hats did “A Red Hat Christmas” with their trademark purple and red combination in the tablecloth, place settings and centerpiece. Of course, their bear mascot was properly adorned with red and purple hat, scarf and beads.

Arguably the most unique idea was the brainchild of two volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. Their table was completely furnished with items borrowed from the Habitat ReStore in Southport. They even left the prices on each piece so the guests could see the great bargains that are available at that store. They had a 64-piece china set, lovely crystal goblets and glass candlesticks on display.

The table that drew the biggest crowd was “Sugar Cookies.” That one featured cards with sayings for children and cookies made to look like kids made them. One of the sayings sure to be remembered and quoted by all grandmothers is the one that reminded children, “Respect means offering the very first cookie to your grandmother.” And then there is the reminder to parents and grandparents: “Compassionate means that when you burn the cookies to a crisp, I’ll be there to give you a hug.”

The day also featured a raffle of 27 baskets filled with everything from wine to wood crafts, golf accessories to gardening items, children’s books to Christmas items.

According to Julie Coddington, St. James Service Club president, the event drew more than 300 guests, and she says the club is extremely grateful for the community’s overwhelming support.

When asked if they will do Tiptoe through the Tables again next year, there was a collective “yes” from all who were within earshot of the question. Stay tuned for details next fall.