By Debby Gunter
Women’s Fund of Smith County

I love the quote “leadership is an action, not a position.” This quote is well reflected in the nonprofit and philanthropic community we are so fortunate to be a part of here in Smith County. When I was asked to consider being part of the Board of Directors for the Women’s Fund, I did not hesitate in accepting, because I knew this collective giving circle was a group of leaders who take action by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children in Smith County. 

I have had the opportunity to be a part of the Women’s Fund of Smith County since the beginning as a charter member. My stepmother, Dawn Franks, encouraged me to consider being a part of the Women’s Fund. She explained the simple, but brilliant concept of women pooling their resources together to positively impact women and children in our community. At the very start of the Women’s Fund, in the first year, the members were able to award $100,000 in grants. This collective giving circle has continued since that time to consistently succeed in its mission to impact the lives of women and children in our community. What started years ago as a small group of like-minded, determined women committed to action has resulted in the award of more than $2.3 million directly to 29 different nonprofit agencies in our community.      

One of the many local organizations that has been significantly impacted by the collective giving of the Women’s Fund is the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County.  For those of you who are not familiar with the nonprofit, the Children’s Advocacy Center (“CAC”) serves children who have been victims of physical and/or sexual abuse by coordinating the efforts of law enforcement, CPS, criminal prosecutors, therapists, victim advocates, and community volunteers in a child-friendly environment. The mission of the CAC is to reduce trauma through a unified effort that facilitates thorough investigations, effective prosecutions and the healing of children and their families. If you have not had the humbling opportunity to visit the CAC and see the work they are doing and the child victims’ drawings on the walls, please make it a priority this year. It will be time well spent.

There is no greater gift than to witness a vital organization such as the CAC grow its services and staff, and to be able to positively impact the lives of the children and families it serves. Not only have I had the opportunity to witness the growth of the Women’s Fund through the years, I have also had the privilege to witness the substantial growth of the Children’s Advocacy Center and the important services it provides. I served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Advocacy Center for two separate terms. During that time, I witnessed firsthand the impact the Women’s Fund grants had on the CAC’s ability to provide new services and more services to the child victims it serves. I was so proud and thankful to see two organizations I supported work together for the better of the community.

What started as a simple, but brilliant idea to bring women together and collectively give to impact women and children in Smith County has turned into an organization that has been effectively led for over 12 years by leaders who believe leadership is an action, and not a position. I am grateful to be a part of the Women’s Fund, and if you are not a member, please consider joining us as we continue to provide much needed grants to positively impact the lives of women and children.   

Debby Gunter is a practicing attorney and partner with the law firm of Findlay Craft, P.C. in Tyler, Texas. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Fund of Smith County.  She is married to Eric Gunter, and they have a son named Cole.