By Agnes Ward
Women’s Fund of Smith County
When I was younger and thought about giving, I would reflect on the verse from Scripture, “Every one to whom much is given, of him much will be required…”
I always thought this message meant sharing my possessions or giving money. Over time, I developed an awareness of the responsibility I had to make good choices to bring all of us collectively closer to our Father and to each other. It is in giving of ourselves we find joy.
Giving money is so very important to the non-profits serving our community. They exist because of the needs of our neighbors. Without financial support they would have to close their doors. Where would those seeking help in crisis turn? Here in Smith County there are people whose basic needs are not being met on a daily basis.
Many of us are blessed financially. We have enough money to pay our bills, educate our children, save money for retirement and make donations to organizations we believe share our values. We are called to give generously in gratitude for our many blessings.
The other kind of giving is more personal: giving of our talent and time. Often this is a larger sacrifice since today our time seems to be our most precious asset. We see or hear about the “needs” of our fellow human beings. Each of us needs to act. It could be as simple as cleaning out our closets of clothes we no longer wear and donating them. We all know about organizations we belong to such as our churches, children’s schools, and local non-profits. Volunteer to help. Use your talents, skills and abilities to assist in helping fulfill their mission. We enrich each other’s lives by sharing our gifts with one another. As we get to know the people behind the need we develop relationships. We support their dignity, give hope, and enhance their feelings of self-worth. We contribute! We help!
It is never too early in our children’s lives to model what giving is and how it might look. Create family activities that promote working together to enrich the lives of those less fortunate. Put together Thanksgiving baskets and deliver these baskets through your church or another non-profit. Help develop the virtue of generosity in your children. Later in life you will see first-hand the “ripple affect” when they have a heart for others and do community service.
There are so many area non-profits that extend their hands and hearts to those around us. I have been involved with several over the twenty years I have lived in East Texas but would like to talk about one that has impacted me personally. I have been on the Board and Grants Committee of the Women’s Fund of Smith County for the last five years. Our mission is strong. “The Women’s Fund of Smith County believes that together is better. Through collective giving, we transform our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children.”
As Vice Chair for Grants, I am involved in the planning and execution of the grants process. Other non-profits apply for funding for a new or the expansion of an existing program. Members of the grants committee study each grant application to evaluate its merit in meeting criteria, structure and potential impact. The committee makes site visits to those agencies who are in the running for a grant. Agency representatives answer questions and give us supporting evidence for the need of the project. The grants committee notifies those non-profits who will be finalists for grant awards. Each member of our giving circle has a voice in the grants process through her giving and her vote for the grants we award annually. The Women’s Fund has awarded over $1.6 million to 27 agencies in the last 11 years. It has been a wonderful experience working with and getting to know so many remarkable women, who give of their time and talents.
We as a community are blessed to have so many amazing non-profit agencies available to help those in need. Each year I learn about programs I did not know existed. I have become a more educated donor. I have also learned about local foundations and individuals who have giving hearts. Philanthropy is alive and well in East Texas.
Another meaningful verse to me, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Agnes Ward serves as Vice Chair for Grants for the Women’s Fund of Smith County. For more information on mission and membership to this giving circle of almost 300 women, please visit www.womensfundsc.org