By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County
I once heard someone describe gentleness as controlled strength. That picture has stayed with me, as I try to grow the fruit of gentleness in my own life. There is something about a strong hand with a soft touch – the kind of hand you want to hold onto. It is a tender, compassionate gesture toward another’s weaknesses and limitations, and it offers strength and trust. When that connection is made, there is impact.
Impact. Just the sound of the word evokes images of force, strength, effect or influence. Yet, impact also can be understood from a gentle perspective. Recently, at the Women’s Fund of Smith County Grants Announcement, I witnessed that type of impact. Community grants were awarded to Goodwill Industries of East Texas, Next Step Community Solutions and Camp Tyler Outdoor School – all designed to have a lasting, measurable impact for women and children in Smith County. I marveled at the exchange, knowing the hands receiving these grants would turn around and offer help and hope to the hands of others. The announcement of these grants came as a result of the work of the Grants Committee of the Women’s Fund. The annual grants process is the soul of our mission, and this dedicated committee spends countless hours over several months to review grant applications. But each and every member of the Women’s Fund participates in the process, through her giving and her vote to the grants awarded each year. The hands held in this giving circle are the hands of gentlewomen, who show strength through humility and kindness.
Before this year’s awards were announced, the group in attendance heard from one of last year’s recipients, PATH (People Attempting To Help). Executive Director Greg Grubb gave an update on the program “Mathnasium at PATH.” Greg explained how this tutorial project, funded by the Women’s Fund, has brought together children and teens, their parents, educators from Mathnasium of Tyler and PATH mentors. The program is designed to improve math skills and scores, thereby increasing confidence and success in school, for young people in Smith County whose families could not otherwise afford this educational opportunity. The impact of this grant is seen in the smiling face of a child, whose voice is heard saying, “I know the answer.” “I can raise my hand!” A hand raised, because a hand gave.
The Women’s Fund of Smith County recognizes the significance of impact. As philanthropists together, we realize the impact of our gift is not just about money but more about relationships. It is important to strengthen partnerships with current and past grantees. Our Impact Committee oversees the successful management of the grant awards and the impact of the funding for the agencies and for the community. Evaluation strategies are developed to measure the outcome of the investment. Grants-in-Action site visits give our members the opportunity to connect with the agency and with those we are serving. These are the ways our touch can be seen and felt.
A collective and timeless approach is given to our mission of leveraging the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. Our purpose is not about one individual, nor is it about one moment in time. The journey of giving goes on and on. There is strength in togetherness, and holding hands makes any walk more enjoyable and meaningful. Always look for gentle acts of kindness along the way, moments of impact, remembering, as Laurence Leamer wrote, “The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.”
Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a collective giving circle. Membership to this philanthropic organization is open to all women who are interested in being a part of impact giving. Please visit www.womensfundsc.org for more information.