Feeling the Love

Deborah Race
Women's Fund of Smith County

This Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the love around us. And how nice to have been able to witness the love and generosity of Smith County residents during the many challenges of the last year.

A friend recently posted an article on Facebook that listed Smith County as one of the top 10 charitable counties in Texas. The study said that Smith County residents were among those who donated the most money as a percentage of their income in Texas. I was so proud of our community, but must admit, I wasn’t too surprised. I’ve always known Smith County residents were some of the most generous around.

I have witnessed the generosity of Smith County residents recently through my association with the Women’s Fund of Smith County and my work on the Grants Committee. As a collective giving circle, the Women’s Fund is able to increase the impact of its individual member’s gifts to various non-profits in Smith County. As the Women’s Fund says, together is better!

This month the Women’s Fund of Smith County awarded $329,480 to six deserving non-profit agencies in Smith County in our first ever virtual grants award ceremony streamed live on Facebook. With these grants, the Women’s Fund has awarded over $2.3 million since our first awards in 2009. This was especially meaningful as these grants were the result of the 2020 grant process. To say 2020 was a different year is an understatement. Yet while some giving circles may have opted out of the grant process altogether during the pandemic, the Women’s Fund of Smith County, recognizing the tremendous need in our community, decided to adapt to those changing needs and forge ahead. As a result, we awarded more dollars to more agencies than ever before!

As a result of COVID 19, the Women’s Fund and the Grants Committee decided to change its 2020 application. We adopted a more trust-based approach and for the first-time allowed requests for CORE funding which includes operations. Normally our grants are limited to projects impacting women and children in Smith County, but since the pandemic has resulted in canceled fundraisers, increased demands and other challenges, many nonprofits have struggled with basic operations during this time.

The Grants Committee is another example of the generosity of Smith County residents. The members of the Grants Committee volunteer countless hours reading and meeting to discuss the applications submitted. This past year, we conducted most of our meetings via ZOOM, which while not as satisfying as getting to meet in person, proved to work just fine. The committee reviewed and discussed each of the many grant requests we received and interviewed many agency representatives. After narrowing the requests down through discussions and votes, the committee sent the largest number of grant requests ever to our membership for a vote. The membership then voted to award grants to the following six agencies which were recognized at our virtual awards ceremony.

Bethesda Health Clinic, which provides quality healthcare to low-income uninsured or underinsured residents of Smith County, received a grant of $68,980 to be used for gynecological services and related equipment. One can only imagine the increase in needs and challenges Bethesda has experienced in 2020.

Children’s Advocacy Center has also seen an increase in need during 2020. CAC helps children who are the victims of physical and/or sexual abuse, and works to reduce the trauma of the criminal justice system. CAC seeks to help each child recover and heal from the abuse — It is a place where even the smallest voice can be heard. CAC received a $62,000 grant to help continue its mission and replace funds lost during 2020.

Christian Women’s Job Corps helps give women the life and job skills to return to the workplace and achieve their career and personal goals. Its education programs and courses focus on each client’s entire life to help her gain employment and bring more meaning to her life. CWJC received a $43,500 grant.

Literacy Council of Tyler offers adult education classes to help its students gain skills to better enable them to unlock their potential. As a result of the pandemic, LTC had to hold virtual classes rather than offer in-person instruction. LTC received a grant of $50,000 to cover the additional costs of providing virtual learning to its students.

PATH, People Attempting to Help, provides a myriad of vital services to members of the community. Through a personalized approach, PATH seeks to enable members of our community to thrive. PATH received a grant of $60,000 to provide rent assistance – a service that was requested the most by those people seeking assistance at PATH.

St. Paul Children’s Services also provides multiple services to our community, including pediatric medical and dental care, a food pantry, family education services and more. St. Paul seeks to empower children and families to thrive by meeting their physical, mental and spiritual needs. ST. Paul was awarded a $45,000 grant.

Through our collective giving circle, the Women’s Fund was able to make these grants that will greatly impact the lives of women and children in Smith County. And these six agencies are only a few of the many wonderful non-profits in Smith County, each one of which is a testament to the generosity in our community. A non-profit exists by virtue of the generosity of it board members, volunteers, and donors.

It was wonderful to be a part of our live virtual celebration celebrating these deserving agencies and recognizing the generosity and adaptability of the Women’s Fund. I know if you were able to live-stream the event, or watch it later, you were also feeling the love.

Deborah Race is an appellate attorney in Tyler, Texas, and is board certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She serves on the Executive Committee as Vice Chair for Grants on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Fund of Smith County. The Women’s Fund is a collective giving circle of more than 300 women with a mission of transforming our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. Any woman with a giving heart is welcome to join the Women’s Fund. Please visit www.womensfundsc.org for information about membership and outreach.

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