By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County
It is thrilling to be a part of something lifting and vibrant. Such is the experience for those of us involved with the Women’s Fund of Smith County, as our circle continues to grow, to thrive and to shine. Since our founding in 2007, membership has more than doubled to an inspiring number of 306. But it’s not just a number to us. To us, this number represents energy and passion, strength and togetherness – 306 faces of philanthropy, 306 giving hearts.
Much of the beauty within our organization comes from the diversity of our members in age, race, and even giving capacities. Yet we share a deep sense of affection for our mission to transform our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. Our grants to area nonprofits launch new and innovative programs, expanding services with far-reaching results. Members of our circle are extraordinarily committed to our collective giving and grant-making process and take pride in our accomplishments which make a lasting difference.
Our first year to award community grants was 2009. Since that time, the Women’s Fund has exceeded a cumulative grant award total of $1.6 million, impacting 27 different Smith County agencies and countless lives. Impressive numbers indeed; but what matters most to us are the women and children who are served because of our grant dollars. Women, through care and counseling at the East Texas Crisis Center, are being empowered to rebuild their lives and step away from abuse to develop healthy relationships. Single mothers are working to achieve financial stability through PATH’s transitional housing program.
More students in our community will experience the wonder of celestial phenomena through Discovery Science Place’s mobile planetarium program, while learning more in science, technology, engineering and math by this unique interactive presentation. Another grant, to Next Step Community Solutions, will implement a youth suicide prevention program on two Smith County campuses – the first to be implemented in the state of Texas. The power of peer social networks will be harnessed to fundamentally change unhealthy norms and cultures by increasing hope and help for young people desperate to feel less alone.
There’s something special about women giving together, something special about women giving to women and to children. When the life of a woman is transformed, a family is transformed, a community is transformed. That type of impact cannot easily be quantified. In her new book, “The Moment of Lift,” Melinda Gates powerfully puts it this way, “How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings – and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.”
What’s in a number? Is less more? Is bigger better? Maybe there really is strength, and even safety, in numbers. Bringing people together and cultivating relationships give meaning to the rise in momentum. Gates goes on to say, “I believe women’s groups are essential for each of us individually but also for society generally – because progress depends on inclusion, and inclusion begins with women.” So, we’ll keep widening our circle and extending our reach – to infinity and beyond.
Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. Membership to this giving circle is open to any woman wanting to be a part of impacting community and transforming lives through philanthropy. Visit www.womensfundsc.org for information about mission and outreach.