By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County

 The book of Genesis tells us that light is good. Light dispels darkness and brightens a room. It can illuminate, inspire and reflect something beautiful. It provides warmth to the weary and solace to the sad, chasing away shadows and gloom. Light can warn us of danger and assure us of safety. Light shows us the way.

There are four such beacons in our community.

The East Texas Symphony Orchestra, Christian Women’s Job Corps of Tyler, Habitat for Humanity of Smith County and The Mentoring Alliance are all motivated by missions to enrich and empower our neighbors. Each recently received a grant from the Women’s Fund of Smith County for innovative programs which will significantly impact the lives of women and children.

It was our honor to spotlight the work of these exemplary nonprofit agencies, as we awarded our annual grants after a lengthy process of reviewing applications, listening to presentations and making site visits to observe their efforts. The announcement of these grants came as a result of the work of the Grants Committee of the Women’s Fund. But every member of our giving circle participates in the grant-making program, through her financial contribution and her vote for which projects to be funded each year.

As each organization’s executive officer accepted the award, you could hear their passion and feel their light. Vanessa Gardner, Sherry Skinner, Jack Wilson and Kevin East radiate energy. These leaders are servants. They do not focus on the large dollar amount of the grant. Rather, they vision about the lives that will be forever changed because of the gift.

The Women’s Fund of Smith County is humbled to serve alongside our agency partners. Together, we are embarking upon a journey to make a difference, to be a light to someone else.

More elementary students and teachers in Smith County will experience and explore orchestral repertoire through integrated and interactive curriculum, taking learning to a new level. Exposure to the arts through music and even a stage appearance will enrich critical thinking and ensure academic success.

Hundreds of women will be given opportunities to create a new life plan and secure employment, moving them to self-sufficiency and personal pride. Gaining skills, knowledge and confidence will lead to lasting generational transformation, as these women become their own inspiration.

Female homeowners will know strength, stability and safety because of critical repairs made to their houses. Dignity and pride will be restored to rural and urban homeowners and the fear of being displaced will be eliminated. The effects of peace-of-mind will reach every member of the household.

A single mom will feel less alone, knowing others believe in her son, too. Hundreds like him at Boulter Middle School will reap the benefits of positive interaction with adult role models in an after-school program building emotional resilience and life readiness. A cycle is interrupted and a hope for a better tomorrow renewed.

Unlike the light givers of sun, moon and stars, humans give light through our capacity to know and to love. We ourselves, not money, are the most pivotal instruments of philanthropy. Members of the Women’s Fund of Smith County understand that truth. We are givers with purpose. We want to be educated givers. We want to know what the gift means and how it will be invested – in lives.

Smart giving involves gifting organizations with passionate leaders – leaders who beam with brilliance and courage, leaders who will carry the gift forward and ignite change.

No one likes to feel invisible. Sometimes we need someone to show us the light, put us back on our path and allow us to shine.

Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Any woman with a giving heart is welcome to join this collective giving circle which provides annual grants to nonprofit programs benefiting women and children in our community. To learn more about mission, membership and outreach, visit