By Jackie Bruton
Women’s Fund of Smith County
When you live in a very small town, it is easy to spot when someone is in need. The kids on the school bus growing up with an alcoholic father; the elderly widow who can’t get out to buy groceries; the single mother who can’t afford Christmas gifts this year. We all go to school and church together. Heck, most of us are related! Where I grew up, in rural East Texas in the sixties, nonprofit organizations did not exist. My mother, bless her heart, along with others in town, would buy shoes, clothes and toys for kids who obviously would not have had them otherwise because there was no Salvation Army “Angel Tree” at the mall. My aunt would prepare and deliver home cooked meals for the “shut-ins” because there was no Meals on Wheels. The old town doctor would dispense an awful tasting antibiotic that cured everything and never send a bill because Bethesda Clinic was not thought of yet. Back in the day, we took care of our own and needs were quietly met. Neighbors helping neighbors. I was taught what it meant to “love one another” at an early age.
The March of Dimes campaign was the first time I ever collected money for something a little less tangible. Asking school friends for dimes to fill the cards, in order to find a cure for polio, seemed very worthwhile. Who doesn’t recall the hideous iron lung and pictures of little girls walking with braces? Our hearts were touched and we did what we could to stop the spread of this crippling disease. And of course we all lined up to eat the sugar cubes, containing the vaccine, so we wouldn’t contract it ourselves. This may have been the first “giving circle” that I ever joined. Let’s call it successful because polio has been eradicated.
I’ve moved on to present day and a metropolitan setting. Our Smith County community is blessed with a variety of organizations that stand in the gap to meet the needs of our citizens. Hundreds of people, with hearts as big as Texas, have worked tirelessly to establish credible and sustainable nonprofits with the goal of enriching lives by offering a hand up to neighbors.
For the past forty years, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with many groups such as the East Texas Crisis Center, Junior League, and now the Women’s Fund of Smith County. When most board members shudder at the thought of asking for money, I rather enjoy it. As long as you believe strongly in the mission, or the individual, it’s easy to separate folks from their hard earned money! All you have to do is paint a picture of how their dollars directly impact the cause you are passionate about and make sure they know you are good stewards of their gifts.
The Women’s Fund of Smith County has grown into a premiere nonprofit because of the faith that our burgeoning membership, along with our community partners, have put into our grants process. We are a giving circle of women who firmly believe that together is better. We pool our money and vote on which carefully vetted organizations receive funding. In 2018, we were able to give almost $300,000.00 to four nonprofit agencies benefiting women and children right here in Smith County.
Scripture says, “to whom much is given, much will be required”. If you are blessed with wealth, talent or gifts you can offer those things to benefit others. You can bake cookies, drive a car, clean a house or sew a costume. In the alternate, you can join a committee, organize a party, teach a class or just write a check!
Tyler is an extremely caring and philanthropic city, not unlike the small town where I grew up. Once a need is identified, our numerous nonprofit organizations, state of the art health care centers, exemplary educational entities and countless community groups work together to find the resources to help our citizens As always, we pride ourselves in taking care of our own. I love it when I meet new people and find out that they have already gotten involved with their favorite charity or community group!
So, in case you need more inspiration to become involved in groups that help our community bloom and grow, come to the Women’s Fund of Smith County Power of the Purse luncheon, on November 6 at the Green Acres Crosswalk Center. Bring your giving heart and your purse!
Jackie Bruton is a retired state employee and nonprofit and political consultant. She currently serves as Vice Chair for Advancement for the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Membership is open to women wanting to be a part of collective giving and grant-making. Visit www.womensfundsc.org to learn more about mission and membership opportunities.