(Jan. 31, 2020) Illustrating the power of collective efforts over individual involvement, members of 100+ Women Who Care on the Shore have raised more than $30,000 in funds over the past three years, while also generating publicity for local nonprofits organizations.
Organizer Janelle Mulholland said the group, which gathered initially during winter 2017, holds three meetings each year with the next scheduled for this Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Sisters boutique and wine bar in Berlin at 113 N. Main Street beginning at 5:30 p.m.
“We’re not a 501c3 (registered nonprofit organization), we’re just a bunch of local women that get together three times a year for just an hour,” she said. “What we do in that hour is we all get to nominate our favorite charity.”
The concept traces back to 2008 when Karen Dunigan launched 100 Women Who Care in Jackson, Michigan. The Great Lakes-based effort netted $10,000 to buy 300 baby cribs during its first one-hour meeting, while current membership now totals several hundred.
In terms of procedures, Mulholland said the altruistic pursuit involves participants jotting down a suggested local nonprofit with three finalists chosen randomly.
“It goes in a big hat and we pull names out … and those three women get five minutes to talk about their charity,” she said.
After weighing the merits of each local undertaking, the room votes for a finalist who receives $100 from each group member.
“Then we take a big picture … and we’ve raised all this money in just an hour,” she said.
Mulholland said members donated $4,300 to support Worcester Youth and Family’s Every Children Needs program during its most recent meeting in October.
Other nominations considered were Grace Center for Maternal and Women’s Health in Berlin and Friends of Possibilities, which funds scholarships for diabetic children at Camp Possibilities in Berlin.
With the group now approaching its 10th meeting, the 100+ Women Who Care has awarded backing to nine local entities.
“In those nine meetings, we have raised $33,600, all for local charities,” she said. “Since 100 percent of the funds have to stay on the shore, that means strictly local, small organizations.”
While not an exhaustive list, past recipients have included Salisbury-based Women Supporting Women to support breast cancer patients; the Stephen Decatur High School Music Boosters to replace 30-year old band uniforms; the Cricket Center in Berlin to support child abuse advocacy; and $6,000 for Diakonia, which has undertaken homeless outreach efforts since 1972.
Mulholland said in addition to providing financial support, the organization’s aim is to raise awareness of positive local undertakings.
“Some of these charities are so small that they don’t have an advertising budget, they don’t have staff [or] the capability to publicize themselves,” she said. “That’s kind of how we come in [but] it’s really not about us.”
Mulholland said the meetings also help educate the group’s members about their own communities.
“Since I started it three years ago, and I’ve been here 20 years, I [hadn’t heard] of half of these charities.”
Members learn more about the organizations they have helped in follow-up meetings.
“We invite them back to our meeting and they get five minutes to say … how they actually used the money and pass out more information about their organization,” she said.
The group has also varied its meeting locations over the years.
“Last year, we were at Fins [Raw Bar in Berlin], this year we’re at Sisters,” she said. “We started at Sisters in 2017 and went to West-O Bottle Shop in 2018.”
While participation has continued to grow, the group hopes to increase its membership numbers to match the amount of each individual donation — $100.
“We had a great turnout for our October meeting,” she said. “It fluctuates but the most we’ve ever had is 41, which was our last meeting.”
Regardless of reaching that mark, the dollar total has exceeded expectations.
“When we raised $6,000 for Diakonia, we had 30 people there so we raised $3,000, but we had a member who doubled our gift,” she said.
Mulholland said media coverage of the charitable endeavors produced the same result after a reader unexpectedly boosted the funding earmarked for Women Supporting Women.
“[After] reading it in the paper, he called me and said, ‘I don’t want to donate, I want to match that.’ He matched it, so it was a $5,000 gift,” she said.