By Christi and Caroline Khalaf

The Women’s Fund of Smith County is a collective giving and grant-making circle that has grown to a membership of nearly 300 women.  Since its formation in 2007, The Women’s Fund has awarded over $2.3 million in grants to 29 different nonprofit agencies, transforming the lives of women and children in our community. These grants have launched new and innovative programs, as well as expanded existing projects with far-reaching impact.  The Women’s Fund has four areas of focus:  Arts and Culture, Education, Health and Wellness, and Human Services. 

The G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts) program, an initiative of the Women’s Fund created in 2013, enables high school girls to experience the same joy of collective giving and grant making.  G.I.V.E. members come together each month to gain a better understanding of philanthropy, become more aware of community issues, and volunteer and give together to transform lives.  Since the program started, G.I.V.E. has granted over $35,000 to local non-profits, including the largest grants in 2020 and 2021 to For the Silent and Hope Haven of East Texas, respectively. 

The Power of the Purse luncheon is an annual event that supports the mission of the Women’s Fund of Smith County and of the G.I.V.E. program by celebrating the impact of philanthropy and community.  This year, we are honored to welcome our keynote speaker, Mikaila Ulmer.  Mikaila’s story centers around how two bee stings and one of her grandmother’s recipes changed the course of her life.  After her bee stings, Mikaila began to think about the role that bees play in our ecosystem and became passionate about raising awareness and money for bee conservation.  She decided that she could use local honey in her grandmother’s lemonade recipe.  This was the start of “Me & the Bees” lemonade.  Mikaila’s message is this: “Consider three practices as you grow your business: GIVE, SAVE, SPEND, in that order.”

This incredible 17-year-old entrepreneur and Texas native started her empire at 4 and a half years old and has since seen her company grow from yesterday’s humble front yard lemonade stand to today’s nationwide sales through major retailers including Whole Foods and Target. She has appeared on some of the nation’s largest stages, including ABC’s Shark Tank, and has authored her autobiography, Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid. Much like the Women’s Fund of Smith County, philanthropy is at the heart of all Mikaila does. She is the Founder of The Healthy Hive Foundation, whose mission is to save bees through education, research, and protection, and to inspire social entrepreneurship.

The 14th annual Power of the Purse celebration luncheon will be held on Tuesday, November 9 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Green Acres Crosswalk Conference Center in Tyler.  As the first ever mother-daughter co-chairs of the event, we are extremely honored to serve the Women’s Fund and G.I.V.E. by leading this important initiative.  For more information about our event, please visit the Women’s Fund of Smith County at or call 903-509-1771. 

Christi and Caroline Khalaf serve as the Co-Chairs of the 2021 Power of the Purse luncheon, celebrating philanthropy in our community.  Christi is actively involved in the community, currently serving on the board of directors of the Women’s Fund of Smith County.  Caroline is a junior at All Saints Episcopal School and has been an active part of the G.I.V.E. program since 2019.