Keep Looking Up

By Kristen Seeber

Women's Fund of Smith County

It’s a funny thing about me. When I am under stress or become overwhelmed, I find comfort in the mundane. Ordinary tasks – cleaning my house, watering my plants, ironing a few shirts, unloading the dishwasher – quiet my mind and give me calm. I need something to bring me back to center, and these small projects provide me with a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of control.  

Honestly, I think we all rely on a rhythm to our day to keep us grounded and focused. Especially now, we are craving normal. But there is nothing normal about a global pandemic. There is nothing normal about wearing a mask in the grocery store or attending church through a live streaming device. There is nothing normal about hardworking individuals facing financial disaster. Still, we all are doing the best we can to put one brave foot in front of the other.  

The expression “building a plane while flying it” has become increasingly familiar. I’ve heard it repeated during Zoom calls and in other conversations surrounding the response to the COVID-19 crisis. It deftly captures the feelings of risk and uncertainty that many of us share as we test new ways of thinking while being responsible for maintaining existing operations.  

No doubt, we are in different times – leaving us with different opportunities to be creative, nimble and flexible. The local philanthropic landscape has shifted and its impact has affected the nonprofit community and donors alike. How do we respond with boldness and confidence when there are more questions than answers? Maybe the best place to look is up - remembering the proverb, “We can never see the sunrise by looking toward the west.”  

The Women’s Fund of Smith County continues to keep a skyward look, to move onward and upward. We move forward from a place of certainty – our mission. Never has our mission of ‘together is better’ meant more. We care for our community. Over our ten-year giving history, we have cultivated and nourished strong and valuable relationships with area nonprofit agencies. Together, we serve our neighbors and encourage them to find their place in the sun.  

Earlier this year, our giving circle was honored to award five community grants totaling over $300,000 – the most we’ve ever given in one year. Remarkable growth in membership, strong support from community partners, and responsible stewardship led us to this landmark. These funds, like all our grants, are impacting our community and transforming the lives of women and children.  

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we are doing our best to navigate the path forward. Through our upcoming grant program, we hope to provide relief and recovery for our neighbors, while remaining true to our mission and to our commitment of fiscal responsibility as trusted stewards of resources.  

By looking ahead, our vision for 2021 funding is clear. We will strengthen our commitment to our existing nonprofit partners. With a trust-based approach, we will temporarily modify our funding opportunities to include support for operating expenses and existing programs. After careful study, we realize our local partners may have unique needs this year. It is our desire to respond – to move from reaction to resurgence, from moment to momentum.  

From this challenge, we will rise. We are a strong circle of extraordinary women with an empowering way to give – leveraging collective wisdom and collective energy to inspire others to look up with hope.  

Aside from getting lost in the mundane, many an anxious thought can be eased by being outdoors, feeling the fresh air and the warmth of the sun. A certain rhythm to every day begins with the sun in the sky. C.S. Lewis wrote, “I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Yes, the sun will shine tomorrow. We can trust the light.  

Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a 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. Applications for 2021 Grants will be available beginning Monday, June 8. Submission deadline is Monday, July 13. For more information about funding guidelines and to apply for a grant, please visit www.womensfundsc.org  

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