By Katharine Curtis
Women’s Fund of Smith County
I can remember first encountering the Women’s Fund of Smith County at an event, after finishing a long Friday night softball practice. My mom had only recently joined this giving circle, but she and my godmother (also a member of the Women’s Fund) thought I’d be interested to learn more about their initiative for high school girls – G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts.)
Walking into the gathering, I was a bit nervous about my appearance coming straight off the field. But I was immediately embraced by Women’s Fund members with open arms. I quickly realized how passionate and dedicated these women are to their mission of helping our community become a happy home for all. I was sold and enthusiastically signed up to be a part of G.I.V.E.
As a part of G.I.V.E., I learned we would research local nonprofits, select one to award a grant, and then together raise funds to support the organization for whom we had voted. We were encouraged to use this opportunity to strengthen causes that touch our hearts. I think that is what resonated with me most when voting for the nonprofit to receive our grant award.
The first year I had the honor of participating in G.I.V.E., we voted to support the Building Blocks program of Living Alternatives which offers practical help to parents and renews their hope. The second year of my involvement, our grant was awarded to the Spirit of St. Louis Therapeutic Riding Center helping children and adults with special needs. To raise funds for these grants, we flipped pancakes and sold socks. The Women’s Fund Board of Directors was so generous to match the funds we raised, so that we could make an even stronger impact on the organizations we researched and selected.
The most valuable lesson I learned from G.I.V.E. is how to grow compassion, not only in my heart, but in the hearts of others in this community. Compassion might sometimes need a spark to start but once it’s going, it can spread like wildfire. I believe that spark is the Women’s Fund of Smith County. These wonderful women lead the way in our community and inspire so many, including me! The fan to keep the fire burning is G.I.V.E.
Not only are the voices of girls my age powerful and far-reaching, but we also are the future of spreading kindness. We are the next generation to embrace what the Women’s Fund has started. To all the young ladies in the Tyler area, please be the fuel to keep this fire burning. There is nothing more rewarding than to make a positive impact on the lives of our fellow East Texans.
I believe a quote by Maya Angelou best describes the hearts of the Women’s Fund of Smith County members. “I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” The ladies in this organization are smart. They understand that by coming together the impact they make is far greater than by giving alone. They are brave. They are visionaries. They are loving and charitable, wanting others to thrive and succeed. Since 2009, this giving circle has awarded more than $1.4 million in grants to deserving nonprofits.
And, of course, the Women’s Fund of Smith County teaches by being. They are not only the example for G.I.V.E., they are models for everyone in our community. I am so proud to have been a part of their G.I.V.E. program, and I feel truly blessed to have learned from such an exceptional group of female leaders.
Katharine Curtis is a 2018 graduate of Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School in Tyler and will attend Stephen F. Austin State University this fall. She is a two-year member of G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts) an initiative of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. G.I.V.E. is open to Smith County high school girls (grades 10-12) who want to experience the joy of philanthropy. The Kick Off Event for this year’s program is September 16 at 4:00 p.m. at WorkHub in Tyler. For more information, please visit www.womensfundsc.org or call 903-509-1771.