We believe that TOGETHER IS BETTER. Our grant-making process truly is the heart of our mission, and we are proud to join together in casting our votes.  

Each member of our giving circle has a voice through her vote for our annual grant awards. This privilege brings our mission to life!  

The following Grant Ballot is presented to you – our members – by our dedicated Grants Committee, who has carefully and thoughtfully reviewed many passionate and well-prepared grant proposals for 2022 funding. While we returned to our traditional grant application criteria this year, we did allow organizations to submit proposals for existing programs that had been paused or substantially reduced as a result of Covid 19. Our resilient nonprofit community remains strong and focused on the developing needs of the clients they serve, and so we were excited to see that new programs once again represented the vast majority of requests this year.  

After many hours of respectful dialogue and consideration, the Grants Committee has identified the requests they feel most align with the mission and values of the Women’s Fund of Smith County.  

Descriptions of the grant proposal finalists are presented below, along with a video message from a member of the requesting organization’s staff. We hope this brief, personal video offers you all a firsthand glimpse into the critical needs our nonprofits are hoping to meet, as well as their passion and dedication to the women and children they serve.  

All members of the Women’s Fund are welcome to review the complete set of finalist applications at the WFSC Office located at 909 ESE Loop 323, Suite 215, during the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, until November 12.  

Your voice and vote matter! Thank you for making us better together! 

Click each section below for details and a video message from each finalist.

Mission Statement: The mission of CASA for Kids of East Texas, Inc. is to support abused and neglected children in Smith, Van Zandt, and Wood Counties by providing court appointed trained community volunteers who advocate for loving, safe, and permanent outcomes.

Requested funds will be used to add a Teen Coordinator staff position to work solely with teens and foster youth “alumni.” The Teen Coordinator will be dedicated to working with teen foster youth and young adults as they age out of foster care. This program is focused on reducing or eliminating negative outcomes often experienced by kids who leave the system with no safety net. According to the grant application, 27% of these teens in Texas become homeless within 3 years of leaving the system. Of these, many drop out of school, struggle with drug addiction, engage in criminal activity, commit suicide, and may even be victims of sex trafficking.

A dedicated Teen Coordinator would provide stability and a reliable, long-term relationship for these kids, as they begin to navigate their way into adulthood. Goals of the project include: providing ongoing guidance in areas like finance, housing and healthcare; establishing a “foster youth alumni group”; and expanding the collaborative partnerships with TJC, UT Tyler, and other organizations that support teens, foster children and young adults. The project is expected to serve at least 150 youth each year.

Mission Statement: Knowing that every child's life is sacred, it is the Promise of Cook Children's to improve the health of every child through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury.

Funding from this request will enable Cook Children’s to meet the increasing need for local, pediatric infusion treatments (such as Chemotherapy) by purchasing the necessary equipment and outfitting Cook Children’s  existing Tyler clinic space to meet the needs of their young patients. Currently, pediatric patients from Tyler and surrounding areas must travel to Fort Worth or elsewhere to receive these services, which include intravenous care for various diseases and disorders. There is currently no option to receive these treatments in Tyler.

Specialties include Hematology and Oncology, Nephrology and Dialysis, Genetics and Endocrinology, including Diabetes. The clinic needs the following equipment to outfit this space: at least two specialized pumps to administer medication intravenously; at least two specialized recliners for patients to sit in comfortably while receiving treatments; special blankets including a hospital grade blanket/fluid warmer; and other items  to provide a comfortable experience for both young patients and their parents/caregivers. Cook Children’s anticipates serving an additional 120 additional children in the clinic’s first year here in Tyler. This will eliminate the need for families to travel monthly or even weekly to Fort Worth or elsewhere to receive treatment.

Mission Statement: The mission of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra (ETSO) is to engage and inspire the East Texas community with exceptional music education and performance.

ETSO will use this funding to bring symphonic music to 3,500 students, and include every 4th grade student in Tyler Independent School District (TISD). Many students will experience live music for the first time as they participate with Link-Up, a curriculum created by Carnegie Hall and aligning with National Core Education Standards. These sessions will culminate in an interactive ETSO performance. The curriculum is proven to develop creative capacities and cognitive skills, and allow the children to make a personal connection to music.

According to a December 2020 report by the Public School Review, children who participate in  the arts have a higher rate of academic success. There is also a change toward positive behavior and choices made by students. ETSO believes that by partnering with TISD, these students’ lives will be impacted greatly, creating life-long learners, lovers of music, and positive contributors to the community. ETSO will host teacher training sessions, make all arrangements for the musical performances, and assist TISD staff in filling the seats with 3,500 students who in many cases have not had access to symphonic music.

In addition to supporting better academic outcomes for students who participate in the Link-Up program, ETSO believes that these experiences also promise the benefit of encouraging hope and healing for children who have experienced increased stress and anxiety as a result of Covid 19.

Mission Statement: The Mentoring Alliance exists to mobilize godly people into the lives of kids and families, to provide tangible help and eternal hope.

Mentoring Alliance (MA) is seeking funding to integrate Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into its existing after school programs. SEL is the process through which people acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to: understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Research cited by the grant request shows that implementing SEL into programming not only improves academic achievement by an average of 11%, but also increases prosocial behaviors, improves attitudes towards school, decreases the likelihood of drug abuse, and reduces depression and stress. MA will launch the SEL program into its After School Care program, immediately affecting 1,000 students each day. Ultimately, the program will impact over 2,700 students in Smith County each year. Using the “Connections” curriculum, MA staff will lead children through the following units: Safe relationships, Self-regulation, Awareness of self, Understanding others, and Changemaker.

SEL is particularly beneficial to children who have trauma caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). According to a study conducted by Afterschool Alliance, “children ages 6-17 with at least one ACE are less likely than their peers with zero ACEs to be curious and interested in learning new things, able to stay calm when faced with a challenge, and able to focus and complete the tasks they have started.”

Mission Statement: Our mission is to build safe and vibrant communities by providing services pertaining to education, training, counseling, and mentoring; encouraging individuals and families to lead happy, healthy and productive lives.

Next Step Community Solutions (NSCS) requests funding to expand its existing mental health program to provide greater support at the elementary school level. By expanding its programming to elementary-age students, NSCS will move further upstream to change unhealthy norms earlier in childhood, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying and substance abuse as the students get older.

According to the CDC, 12% of Texas 9-12th graders attempted suicide in 2017, which is substantially higher than the national average of 7% and represents an increase since the last reporting period in 2013, which was 10%. The “Sources of Strength” program selected by NSCS is centered on empowering elementary students to identify and integrate healthy living strategies that allow students to live flourishing lives. It is framed as a wellness model, and integrates upstream prevention strategies to increase coping, resilience, connection, and belonging, thereby decreasing negative downstream outcomes. Promoting health and wellness skills and practices in younger students will result in lower instances of  outcomes like suicide, substance abuse, violence and bullying.

This program would allow Next Step to provide programming at the Elementary level and strengthen its suicide prevention programming at the middle and high school levels.

Mission Statement: The mission of the Tyler ISD Foundation is to provide resources to inspire learning, enrich teaching, and enhance opportunities for District students through the support of exemplary programs.

The Caldwell Arts Academy (CAA) is a premier Fine Arts magnet school in Tyler ISD looking to enhance arts experiences in East Texas by further upgrading its primary production space, Caldwell Auditorium. This space provides an opportunity for the 600 CAA students to present from a professional stage in front of an audience of 1,700 patrons. CAA students also learn to operate the lighting and other technologies used in live performances

CAA requests funds for its Caldwell Production Power program.  Production Power will address two primary goals. First, the program will give children the opportunity to develop their unique skills and talents and prepare them for future success in college, conservatories or the professional arts world.  Second, the program is intended to engage members of the community by offering experiences that connect them to the arts through performances and recitals at Caldwell Auditorium while also providing economic support to downtown businesses.

While TISD is currently planning to update Caldwell Auditorium, this grant will be used to improve the space further by updating existing technological capabilities, including an upgrade to lighting and other necessary equipment which CAA uses both in its curriculum and in performances.  CAA also plans to create the first dance studio (Star Dance Studio), which will be used not only by CAA students but by other area children as well.  The Star Dance Studio will connect students from under-represented pockets of the community to advanced dance programming. Funding will be used to provide a new floor in the two existing dance classrooms, as well as a movable dance floor in Caldwell Auditorium.