by Jennifer Henry
Women’s Fund of Smith County
On Mother’s Day, I like to think about my grandmothers and the things they passed down to me. One of those treasures is my favorite quilt. It is a beautiful quilt of varied colors, textures and fabrics.
I have often wondered: who were the women that sat with my grandmother, in the “Quilting Bee” circle talking, laughing – and sometimes crying together – to make this quilt? Whose hands made these beautiful patterns? What stories can these scraps of fabric tell, and who has this quilt given comfort to before me?
In my mind, patchwork quilts symbolize resourcefulness; they remain physical representations of the connection between the past and present, of creativity and heritage. Each quilt brings together dissimilar things; using multiple layers of fabric for strength, but no matter what colors are used, somehow those colors and patterns unite to form a harmonious whole.
Much like the patches of cloth woven together form a beautiful quilt, the Women’s Fund of Smith County intertwines women with various backgrounds, beliefs and ages, who come together united by the common purpose of lifting up our community. Our different strengths, talents and experience combine to make us capable of giving the community strength, beauty and most importantly, comfort and protection to those in need.
When I was first introduced to the Women’s Fund, I knew this was a “Quilting Bee of Hope” I could be part of. Not having received the creative gene (from my very creative mother), this was a way I could participate in making something of beauty and strength that would stand the test of time.
Through the Women’s Fund of Smith County, where we say, “Together is Better”, all women are welcome to join our giving circle. While we do not stich together pieces of cloth, we do come together to strengthen the organizations that support the women and children of Smith County, ensuring that the fabric of our community, their families and futures are stronger and brighter.
As a member of the Women’s Fund, I am proud to serve on our Board of Directors, and I have seen firsthand how our mission strengthens not only our community, but also the bonds shared among our members. Our mission states: “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.”
What began as an idea shared between friends gathered in living rooms and in small groups has grown to a giving circle of 300 women which has given over $2.3 million back to the community and supported 29 different nonprofits in Smith County.
In April, Women’s Fund members were invited to attend the grand opening celebration of “Our Place” in Tyler, a beautiful place for women veterans that was made possible in part by a Women’s Fund grant. “Our Place” is located on the Camp V campus and will serve the unique needs of female veterans as they return to civilian life, as well as addressing the needs of military wives, caregivers, and children with services including work readiness, educational resources, support groups, and health and wellness programs.
I like to think that our quilt grows with each grant awarded, as we stitch into place the lives of those impacted by our giving. Afterall, we are “better together,” and we welcome all women with giving hearts to join our “Quilting Bee of Hope.”
“But the body is not made of one part, but many”, 1 Corinthians 12:14. The body is not supported by one person, but by all of us. We are one, and we are strongest working together in unity.
Jennifer Henry is a member of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, and serves on The Executive Board of East Texas Veterans Community Council. She is a member of Emerald Bay Community Church.