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The Power of One: How local nonprofit has grown into a powerhouse of local grassroots philanthropy

Women Who Care of Kent County began with one person but has expanded to make great local impact.
Kathy Florentine and Sharon Stianson present a check to Safe Families for Children

Kathy Florentine and Sharon Stianson present a check to Safe Families for Children

Women Who Care of Kent County: Thursday, September 5th

Women Who Care of Kent County meet on Thursday, September 5th at Blythefield Country Club beginning with a meet and greet from 5:00-6:00 PM.  Meeting starts at 6:00 PM and dinner for those that have RSVP'd commences around 6:30 PM.

It started with that still small voice. “A calling of the heart,” as Sharon Stianson, co-founder of Women Who Care of Kent County  (WWCKC) describes it. After raising a family and making a successful career in interior design, Sharon, a long time Grand Rapidian felt called to do more. How could she as someone who described herself as one who didn’t feel rich still help others? Sharon sought the counsel of long-time friend and yoga teacher Kathy Florentine.

The concept is simple. Each participating member of Women Who Care is eligible to put the name of her favorite Kent County non-profit organization in a hat. Three organizations are drawn and each woman has five minutes to present mission and vision of that 501c3 for the group’s consideration.  After the five minutes is up members of the audience may ask questions for five minutes. After the three presentations each woman in attendance votes for her number one choice. Before dinner is served the committee counts up the votes and selects a recipient. Each woman in attendance writes a check for $100 to the local non-profit organization with the most votes. The 501(c)3s are not allowed to solicit donations to individual donors nor are they allowed to add anyone to their mailing lists.

Talk about a ripple effect. At their first gathering 52 women wrote checks of $100 and after almost 6 years the numbers are growing. Last quarter the Santa Clause Girls received $18,100 from WWCKC. The goal is to provide leverage for the smaller grass roots non-profits who could really benefit from the funds received.

Kathy and Sharon lead the group by sharing personal stories from the various non-profits and helping educate by sharing TED Talks related to giving. The video is a little lengthy at just over 18 minutes but with over 4 million views certainly has impacted many non-profit organizations by inviting them to see the bigger picture and to not think of “overhead” as a naughty word. Grass roots organizations need funding to achieve bigger goals. The message here is to dream big and see what kind of impact can be made. In Grand Rapids we’ve seen organizations such as Gilda’s Club and ArtPrize create nationally recognized community events that certainly begin with big upfront expenses but create so much more in terms of funding and impact of their given missions. This is exactly the kind of lift Women Who Care would like to provide for grass roots non-profit organizations in Kent County.

And they have. Recent recipients include Safe Families for Children, Santa Clause Girls, Knitted Knockers and Ebony Road Players to name a few.  Women Who Care of Kent County is led by a steering committee of twelve including the founders. All roles are volunteer and the committee has been providing funds for the administrative expenses of the organization. Their wish list includes new committee members who have skills in technology including web and social media so that they can provide more exposure to more women who care. The next meeting will be held on September 5th at Blythefield Country Club. A meet and greet with a cash bar begins at 5:00 PM. The meeting begins at 6:00 and will conclude with dinner which is available for $25 with an advanced RSVP to [email protected].

For more information please visit the Women Who Care Kent County website.

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