100 Women Who Care working together to make a difference in the county

Portage County Master Gardeners, a nonprofit organization involved in any number of environmental endeavors, recently received a financial boon its members weren’t expecting.

After all, $3,150 isn’t nothing. The money came from Portage County’s chapter of 100 Women Who Care, a group dedicated to supporting local nonprofits.

100 Women Who Care was started in 2006 by Michigan resident Karen Dunigan, who wondered how busy women might raise money quickly and efficiently for local charities when they themselves were strapped for time.

The group has since become a global organization dedicated to supporting local nonprofits. Anne Marie Noble, executive director of Haven of Portage County, started Portage County’s only chapter in 2018.

Keeping it simple, the women meet four times a year, each time for about an hour. Prior to each meeting, the women submit the names of deserving organizations. A 100 Women member vets each organization to ensure legitimacy, and representatives from the first three to be submitted are invited to the next meeting.

Start the clock: Each rep has five minutes to convince the attendees why that organization should win. Members may ask questions after each speaker, but the presentations may not exceed five short minutes. The women then vote on a winner, and each member writes a $100 check directly to that organization.

Members can also form teams of two or four, with each team providing checks totalling $100. That extra $50 in the $3,150 check to Master Gardener? One of the teams likely hadn’t submitted its full financial obligation, Noble said.

Portage County’s 100 Women Who Care now has 31 active members, but is looking for 100 so its members can present deserving nonprofits with $10,000 checks. The quarterly meetings are at various sites throughout the county.

Noble wasn’t looking for a local charitable aggregate, but she’s glad she found it.

“We had been doing some research as far as funding for the Haven, and we stumbled across 100 Women Who Care. We dug deeper into the purpose of that, and I said, ‘I want to do that here,’” Noble said.

Smaller nonprofits don’t often have staff or members to raise funds, but still do good work in the community, she said.

Since 2018, Portage County’s 100 Women Who Care has raised more than $80,000, Noble said.

Recipients have included:

  • Tree City Cats: provides rescue, trap-neuter-return/release, fostering and adoption services for Kent’s stray cat population
  • Ben Curtis Family Foundation: provides backpacks filled with food to local school children so they have food during weekends
  • CASA of Portage County: provides advocates for children involved with the foster care system
  • Safer Futures: provides a shelter for adults and their children who are affected by domestic violence
  • Raven Packs: provides food for Ravenna students
  • Hope Town: provides recovery housing and other services for people recovering from substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Hiram Farms: provides work for people with autism and developmental disabilities
  • Haven of Portage County
  • Charity 6 Foundation: helps families in need
  • Madeleine Rose Foundation: assists with recovery housing for women
  • Children’s Advocacy Center: provides services to children, teens and adults navigating the trauma of child abuse
  • Kent Police Department’s Susan K. Graves Cancer Fund
  • Coleman Health Services
  • Center of Hope
  • Kent Social Services
  • Open Arms Adoptions
  • Habitat for Humanity

100 Women Who Care member Veronica Williamson nominated Portage County Master Gardeners, and as a member of that group, was able to do the presentation, as well.

“I was very, very fortunate that they won. It was wonderful,” she said.

Master Gardeners hasn’t solidified plans for the funds, but Williamson said possibilities include providing $500 scholarships for area teachers to purchase supplies and programs to teach their students about keeping their environment viable: perhaps planting trees, recycling and/or establishing home gardens.

Other ideas include providing more scholarships to graduating Portage County high school seniors who want to major in horticulture or other environmentally-oriented fields or to expand the group’s gardening program at the Haven of Portage County. Portage County Master Gardeners already oversees a vegetable and fruit tree garden at the Haven, but would like to teach residents how to garden on patios or apartment complex balconies.

The organization’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. July 9 at the Black Iron Grille in Twin Lakes. Additional meetings are set for October, January and April.

There is no fee to join: simply show up at a meeting and state your intention. People uncertain about joining may simply attend a meeting and decide if the group is a good fit for them. Only members may vote.

Members volunteer to send emails to notify the women of upcoming meetings, and Noble keeps meetings running smoothly and on time. Member Joyce Cavanaugh vets the nominees and handles marketing, and member Annette Balis manages funds.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.