Women Who Care: Group has donated more than $130,000 to nonprofits in three years

Donna Brown of St. Vincent de Paul Society describes 100+ Women Who Care DeKalb/Sycamore as “a blessing.”

Liz, a client at Safe Passage, said it is “impossible to thank the group as much as they deserve.”

Sheryl Nakonechny, executive director of Barb Food Mart, said she is “grateful for the generosity and giving nature of the women in the group.”

Contributions from 100+ Women Who Care, helped Children’s Learning Center purchase a new school bus. Students in Kishwaukee College’s Adult Education Program were able to complete their classes and DeKalb County Community Gardens’ Walnut Grove Vocational Farm purchased a variety of seeds, strawberry and raspberry plants and handicap-accessible gardening tools.

Since its founding three years ago in 2014, 100+ Women Who Care DeKalb/Sycamore has given more than $130,000 to 11 different nonprofit organizations in DeKalb County.

The group of 130 women from DeKalb County meet four times a year on the second Monday of February, May, August and November. The group’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at O’Leary’s Restaurant & Pub, 260 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

During each meeting, the women hear a 3-to-5-minute presentation given by three local nonprofit organizations. The women then vote for the one they would like to support. The organization that gets the most votes receives The Greatest Impact Award and a $100 check from each woman. All of the money donated by the women goes to the organization; there are no overhead costs or expenses. If a nonprofit organization does not receive the award, they can reapply and make another presentation at a future meeting.

To be a member of the group, a woman must fill out a membership form, which states that she will contribute a $100 check to the winning charity voted on during the meetings four times a year.

Two-time award recipient Safe Passage received $13,500 in May 2017 and $10,900 in November 2015. The money received from 100+ Women Who Care was used to create a care fund that supports clients and families in their journey to safe and independent lives. In a letter thanking 100+ Women Who Care, Safe Passage Executive Director Mary Ellen Schaid said the money received “let clients know there are people in their community who care about them.”

“The money we received from 100+ Women Who Care really made a huge difference in our clients’ lives,” Schaid said. “All the money goes toward helping the individual needs of our clients for things others take for granted: birth certificates, driver’s licenses, day care and car repair. The money really helped us a great deal, allowing our clients to overcome barriers and be a success.”

The most recent recipient of the award was the St. Vincent de Paul Society in DeKalb. The society received $13,200 in August for their Home Visit Program, which offers financial assistance to those in need. The money will allow an increase in the number of weekly visits the program can make to families in need during the fall and winter months.

“It’s amazing what you can do with a group together,” said Mary Beth Van Buer of DeKalb, founder and chairwoman of the local group. “Anyone can donate $100, but when all of the women put their $100 together, it can make a huge impact and a substantial donation to a local organization. We don’t have to put together silent auction items or bake cookies for a bake sale. Fundraising has never been so easy, and it’s a wonderful way for us to support local organizations in our community.”

Van Buer first heard about the worldwide organization 100+ Women Who Care in July 2014 while watching the news. She quickly jotted down information and was able to get in touch with the group in Elmhurst.

“My ears went up like a TV antenna, and I called the City of Elmhurst for more information,” Van Buer said. “The Elmhurst group invited us over for a meeting, and then we started our own group here in November 2014.”

Linda Mason of Sycamore remembers receiving a phone call shortly after that news program from Van Buer, asking her opinion on the group and starting one locally.

“I told her, ‘Mary Beth, that’s a no-brainer, we definitely have to do that here,’” Mason said. “When we each individually do fundraising, it takes hours and hours of work and we don’t make much money. One hundred women donating $100 each is already $10,000.”

Nancy Norris of DeKalb said that attending and participating in the meetings exposes her to nonprofit organizations and charities in DeKalb County that she would otherwise never know.

“Every single one of the organizations is worthy and in need of the money,” Norris said. “Before joining 100+ Women Who Care, I hadn’t thought about all of the groups in DeKalb County that do so much good. It really opened my eyes to the great need for special services in my community.”

After an organization receives the money from 100+ Women Who Care, they must wait one calendar year before they can present again. Barb Food Mart, a school-based food pantry for families in DeKalb School District 428, received $9,500 in August 2015 to help purchase milk for the pantry.

At the November meeting, Nakonechny, executive director of the pantry, will again approach 100+ Women Who Care for their help in purchasing healthier versions of foods, allowing more options for families.

“Since we are school-based, milk is essential,” Nakonechny said. “We spend about $100 a week on milk, so receiving the money allowed us to purchase roughly two years-worth of milk. It freed up our money so that we could purchase healthier food options, like fresh produce, cereals with less sugar and spaghetti sauce with less salt.”

Nakonechny said she and the families assisted by the food pantry have been thankful for the generosity of the women in the group.

“We saw how important the money would be for Barb Food Mart to receive it, and there was barely a dry eye in the room,” Van Buer said. “During the following meeting, a recipient from Barb Food Mart told us what the milk meant to her family, how our donation helped. It was inspiring. Everyone left happy and smiling, knowing that they had made a difference, knowing that together, we have made a positive impact in our community.”

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