By Jackie Bruton

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades!” Regardless of the intended meaning behind this ditty from the eighties, the refrain stuck in my head as I prepared to take office as Board Chair for the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Take a quick look at what is happening in the world today. We certainly have some challenges, but I choose to remain optimistic.

No one needs to be reminded of the challenges we have all faced the past two years and the Women’s Fund is no exception. I was one of five members of our giving circle at a conference in Seattle, Washington in January 2020 when news began to break about a virus from China that was detected in of all places, Seattle. We got back to Texas as quickly as possible only to find the world, as we know it, had changed.

For the next two years, what followed were shutdowns, shortages and then unprecedented snow! Words like pandemic, coronavirus, sanitizers, vaccinations, ventilators, masks and mandates became common. Today added terms such as shrinkflation and supply chain crunch are taking over news feeds.

Because all our meetings and events, such as Mother’s Day and Power of the Purse, were cancelled we all had to “pivot” to find new, creative ways to meet the needs of our those in our community who count on our support. Learning to Zoom with twenty- five women was the first obstacle we overcame. But our Board of Directors and Grants Committee soldiered on and continued to carry out our mission which 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.

Grants are the heart of the organization we fondly refer to as our Giving Circle. The 2020 and 2021 grants committees continued their work of carefully vetting dozens of applications from non-profit organizations in Smith County. Unprecedented and unanticipated needs were brought to our attention. One example is the increase in child abuse cases reported when children returned to school after the shutdown was over. Because the non -profit agencies were unable to raise revenue they needed, just go keep their doors open, Women’s Fund allowed them to ask for operational funds for one year. As a result, despite the turbulence and uncertainty in the world, the past two years, we were able to give a total of over half a million dollars to ten community organizations.

When we were unable to gather for social events, our amazing staff upped our social media game so we could still feel connected and informed about what was happening with Women’s Fund. Masks were sent out as incentive gifts to have members renew and it worked! Our generous, kindhearted women joined and gave enough so that our grant awards did not suffer at all. Membership in Women’s Fund of Smith County is open to all women who have giving hearts.

So, as I took over the reins, as Board Chair in January 2022 I made the decision to look forward to a new year with a measure fun and frivolity. But make no mistake, we take very seriously the trust that our members and community partners place in our ability to select where every dollar is spent each year.

We were able to resume meeting together in the last part of 2021 and as a result our membership and donations have soared! I am blessed to be working with a amazing group of women who all bring strengths and talents to this organization beyond anything I could have imagined. One thing we have learned for sure is that together is better, even when we are apart. And yes, the future is bright!

Jackie Bruton is currently Board Chair of Women’s Fund of Smith County.