By Whitney Patterson
Women’s Fund of Smith County

I have been reflecting on what I was doing one year ago today, at the beginning of 2020. I was just stepping into a new role with the Literacy Council of Tyler. I was excited, ready to learn, ready to be challenged and to work with an incredible staff, board and volunteers to accomplish the mission of the organization.

There was no way of knowing then what we would experience in the coming months. The past year has been unexplainable… undefinable…

While the endless, pandemic-related statistics are updated daily and show us exact numbers of infection rates, death rates, hospital occupancy, and so many other measurements that have been taken from all over the world, we still can’t really see the full picture. What is the story behind those numbers?

How do we define the impact of the record numbers of Americans unemployed or underemployed due to the pandemic? How do we quantify the long-term effects of almost one million Texans alone, who are unemployed?

What we know is this: our neighbors are hurting.

As Executive Director of the Literacy Council of Tyler, I can attest that we are experiencing a much higher demand for our programs as folks are out of work and looking for a career that can take their families into the future. Others are finding that the jobs they have held for years now require a GED or certification, or they need to learn English. These are hard working adults, right here in Smith County. They are not looking for a handout; they are looking for a way to provide for themselves and their families. And, most of these people are women, just over 70%, many with children.

Through all of this, the glimmer of hope for me is the power of our community. One year later, I am still hopeful and ready to take on the challenges of this era. I know that nonprofit organizations are working the front lines to help, supported by an incredibly generous community, and it is making a tangible difference. Whether an immediate need like food or shelter, or a more long-term need like job training and education, so many people have come together to help others. That gives me hope and keeps me going!

The Women’s Fund of Smith County is a prime example of this. As Vice Chair for Membership, I marveled at the number of women who maintained or increased their membership in 2020. Giving never stopped. The power of community is only shining brighter. And, as both a director of a community nonprofit and a member of the Women’s Fund, I get to experience the benefits of our giving circle from all angles.

The power of community is real, and it can lift us all up from the murkiness of the past year. Together, we can ALL work toward a brighter future for our community.

If you are a woman in Smith County, please consider joining us. Your donation will be pooled together with over 300 others to make a real impact for women and children in our community. And that, is community exemplified!

Whitney Patterson is the Executive Director of the Literacy Council of Tyler, one of 29 different Smith County nonprofit agencies that has received grant funding from the Women’s Fund of Smith County since 2009. Whitney is an active member of the Women’s Fund and serves on the Board of Directors as the Vice President for Membership. The Women’s Fund is a giving circle of more than 300 women with a mission of transforming our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. To learn more, please visit  Any woman with a giving heart is welcome to join our mission.