OC Day Parade Grand Marshals celebrate 50 years of Project Guild

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Roughly 50 years to the day, 14 women in their 20s gathered in La Grange with a similar goal in mind, one focused on improving their community by tackling smaller, but necessary, projects.

Little did they know that decades later, that first official meeting of Project Guild would lead to numerous fundraising events, a day-long festival or even a parade where they will be honored as grand marshals this year.

“We literally sat in Pat Ashbrook’s house and it’s turned into this,” Betty Leet, Project Guild’s first president and a grand marshal of this year’s Oldham County Day Parade, said. “It’s just wonderful.”

Leet is one of twelve living founding members of Project Guild, all of whom were named grand marshals of the parade weeks ago.

The organization was founded in August 1964 and has been providing funds and helping with Oldham County projects ever since, Leet said.

“I’ve been watching the progression and it’s wonderful the activities Project Guild has done for La Grange, Oldham County and beyond, really,” she said.

Leet’s sister, Wendy Roberts, was also a founding member of the group and a grand marshal this year. Leet said Roberts is just as excited to be front and center for this year’s ceremonies.

Other founding members and grand marshals include Linda Abbott, Pat Ashbrook, the late Linda Brown, Judy Cox, the late Joyce Crouch, Marcia Crouch, Charlotte Harrod, Peggy Hayden, Beverly Houchin, Helen Howard, Wanda McHargue and Jackie Scott.

Most of the charter members still reside in La Grange or Oldham County, but some, like Abbott and Scott, are traveling from out of town.

Abbott, who will attend the annual luncheon but not the parade due to a conflict, said being named a grand marshal was an exciting moment.

“I was happy, I thought about seeing all the ladies I knew a long time ago,” Abbott said. “And I get to do that. It’s fun to be with the other ladies.”

Abbott said she’s thrilled Project Guild has grown and survived for 50 years, a thought that never crossed the original 14 founders’ minds.

She noted that while she was off helping start Project Guild, several other important organizations were also being formed. Her husband, Ben Howard Abbott, helped found the Chamber of Commerce around the same time, Abbott said.

Scott, who currently lives in Lexington, plans to fully participate in the week’s activities, she said. And when she found out she would be joining other founders as grand marshals, Scott said she was shocked.

“It was, ‘oh my gosh,’ “ she said. “It was really a shock. I never thought it would be anything like that. I love it.”

Scott said the founding of Project Guild had a simple objective: work to complete and fund small activities to make the community better. But the current members have grown the organization into something bigger and better, she said, and into something the charter members never imagined.

“Never in a million years,” Scott said. “I had no idea it would be this big. It’s such an honor.”

One of the group’s first projects was raising $100 dollars for the Mallory Taylor Hospital and helping paint it, too. Now, Project Guild helps in so many ways, Scott said.

“I just can’t say how great it is now,” she said.

The parade officially begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, but music and other activities are planned for the whole day on the courthouse lawn in La Grange.

And while many of the charter members are excited to be grand marshals, the group’s first president said the return 50 years later has a lasting message.

“I think what people can take from it, is if you find something you really love and keep at it, you can make a difference. It may take a few years, but you keep at it,” Leet said.

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