By Zoe Lawhorn
After all the massive preparation, extreme Covid protocols, and even some icy, onscreen drama, the 2022 Bejing Winter Olympics have come to a close. I enjoyed watching the games, especially with my five-year-old son by my side, who was seeing most of the events for the first time. My husband and I recalled some of our past Olympic favorites, men and women who became icons and captured our imaginations, their bright shining faces appearing on cereal boxes and television ads.
Though the competition is over, and the world-class athletes have all returned home, their victories hold a permanent place in history now. Maybe my son will remember watching Shaun White make his last few Olympic runs, an athlete who I’ll always remember as the “Flying Tomato.” Twenty years ago, that scrappy kid had the most amazing head of red hair, and his snowboarding tricks and unique style helped launch the sport of snowboarding forward.
As I watched the circle of Shaun White’s Olympic career close, I thought about the five Olympic rings. The symbol remains a global representation of the Olympic movement and its activity. The colors represent diverse populations from separate continents who compete together, united by ambition and compelled by the dream of achieving Olympic gold.
The Olympic circles prompted me to reflect on the circle I dearly love – the collective giving circle we know as the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Our circle is also diverse and made up of women of all ages, races, faiths, and backgrounds. We are united by our commitment to philanthropy – to making a difference in our community, and to empowering each other to find purpose and fulfillment through service to others.
Much like the Olympic circles represent an infinite future, so does our circle. We go for gold with our giving, and the impact lasts. As a giving circle, we are dedicated to transforming our community by giving grants to nonprofits whose projects enrich the lives of women and children. Our impact grants fund new, nonprofit programs and the expansion of existing programs. Since 2009, the Women’s Fund has awarded over $2.5 million to 30 organizations in Smith County.
Last year, our Community Impact Committee “circled-back,” and conducted comprehensive, in-depth research of grants we’ve awarded over our giving circle’s history. The committee members met with and interviewed nonprofit staff members in hopes of discovering the ways in which our funding had impacted the organizations and the people they serve, and the results were incredible. To me, one of the most important revelations is that 70% of the projects we’ve funded over the years are still active today.
While many Olympic athletes compete as individuals, the Women’s Fund is always a team effort. As individuals, we leverage our gifts with those of the other members; as a team, our giving power is so much greater than what any one of us can do on our own. The impact of our giving shares the infinite nature of a circle, seen immediately through the work of our nonprofit partners, and expressed for generations to come through the individual lives that are changed.
Unlike the Olympics, our giving circle is open to any woman with a giving heart! There are no hurdles to jump, no speed tests, and absolutely no chance of a “death spiral” (a new ice-skating term for me!) We believe that everyone can achieve giving gold and champion the winning spirit of philanthropy. You won’t see our picture on a box of Wheaties, and yet our gold-level giving legacy is told through the lives that are changed.
If you would like to learn more about the Women’s Fund of Smith County, you can start by visiting our website, www.womensfundsc.org. We are already going for gold, but our joy is in passing the awards on to our community.
Zoe Lawhorn serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, 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 our organization. Please visit www.womensfundsc.org for information about membership and outreach.