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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, August 23, 2019

Aiming for impact


100+ Women Who Care hopes to make a big difference for small charities



Get a group of women together, and amazing things can happen.

Take what happened in Tucson when an alliance of more than 200 women started coming together four times a year to give $100 each to a local charity. “Best hour of my quarter,” said one woman after one meeting. “It feels amazing.”

To date, the group, 100+ Women Who Care Tucson, has given over $124,000 to local charities.

The emergence of similar giving circles has swelled into a wave that’s sweeping across the U.S., with local chapters of 100+ Women Who Care popping up in towns of all sizes. In Tennessee, alliances can be found in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Williamson County, Monroe County and elsewhere.

Now a group of seven women in Chattanooga is starting a local chapter of 100+ Women in the hopes of making a big difference for small local charities.

Like the Tucson group, the Chattanooga group will meet quarterly for one hour, during which every member will give $100 to the same local charity.

If the alliance attracts 100 women, then it will write a $10,000 check to the chosen nonprofit.

Patty Champion, an empty nester who’s one of the co-founders of 100+ Women Who Care Chattanooga, says the concept is simple but powerful.

“When I give $100 to one organization, I feel like it doesn’t make much of a difference,” she says. “But if I can get together with other women and we give $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 with minimal effort, it could make a big difference for one charity in the community.”

One of the keys to succeeding in this endeavor will be choosing a charity small enough that the donation will make a sizeable difference, says Lisi Chavarri, a Realtor who’s helping to spearhead the Chattanooga effort.

“If you give $10,000 to the United Way, that’s a generous donation to a worthy organization. But if you give $10,000 to a grassroots charity, it could be the difference between the charity getting off the ground or fizzling,” she adds.

Organization co-founder Betsy Childress has seen the power of giving circles first hand. After she connected with a Knoxville charity called Sleep in Heavenly Peace, she saw how a $10,000 check from that city’s 100+ Women gave a big boost to the small nonprofit.

Touched by the work Sleep in Heavenly Places does in Knoxville (the organization builds beds for children who don’t have them), Childress formed a Chattanooga chapter.

Chavarri says another key to the success of 100+ Women will be keeping things simple. The alliance will meet four times a year for one hour, during which members will listen to brief presentations from about three to five charities, vote for a recipient, make their individual contributions and then present the check.

“No fundraising, no committees, no walkathons, no casseroles,” Chavarri says. “Just four efficient, focused hours a year.”

Maria Chavez, Chavarri’s mother and another co-founder of 100+ Women Who Care Chattanooga, likes the simplicity of the model.

“When you’re working and have a family, you often have no time to give back the way you want to because life happens,” says Chavez, whose duties as the managing broker of Re/Max Renaissance Realtors fill her days, evenings and weekends. “But this way, I can make a huge impact because it’s not just my $100 or my hour, it’s the time and money of all the women combined.”

As a single mother with a demanding career, Chavarri also appreciates the efficiency with which the giving will be achieved, as she’ll be able to easily fit the one-hour meeting into her packed schedule.

“I want to be involved in everything, but that’s impossible,” she points out. “My son goes to preschool and there are all these demands on my life, but if we put together this alliance of women and make this commitment together, then we can make a difference.”

Chavarri says the relatively small size of the individual donations is a third key to the success of 100+ Women Who Care.

“Not everyone can buy a table at a charity event or accept an invitation to a table and then make another donation at the end of the evening,” she says. “100+ Women Who Care is for people who want to give back but can’t afford to on that scale.”

100 Women Who Care began in 2006 in Jackson, Michigan as a way to quickly and efficiently raise money for local charities. At the first one-hour meeting, 100 women each wrote a check to the chosen charity, raising $10,000 to buy 300 new baby cribs for an organization in the city.

Chavarri first encountered 100+ Women at a meeting in Miami eight years ago. When she moved to Chattanooga in 2016, she felt compelled to begin giving back to the community that had welcomed her, but as a single mother and budding Realtor, her time and resources were limited.

“Starting a real estate career and having no support for my son, I found myself boxed in,” she say. “So I began to think about creating a place where I could give back.”

Chavarri’s positive experience at the 100+ Women Who Care event in Miami inspired her to explore the possibility of launching a local chapter. As she began to draw the blueprint for 100+ Women Who Care Chattanooga, she saw layers to the giving circle that went deeper than giving money to a charity.

Before each meeting, the co-founders of 100+ Women will vet charities submitted by members of the alliance and then choose a small number of candidates for the big check. During the next quarterly meeting, the women who submitted the nonprofits for consideration will spend five minutes presenting the organization to the entire alliance.

Chavarri says many women find it difficult to stand in front of a group of people and make a pitch. But she saw an opportunity for empowerment in that process.

“Women are made for more but we hold ourselves back. I want to create an alliance of ladies who empower each other, and I think it would be amazing for someone who feels strongly about a charity to present it to the group and explain why they believe in it.

“This will build their public speaking skills and make them comfortable with getting in front of others.”

Chavarri also identified the networking potential of 100+ Women Who Care early in the planning process. With her memory of the many months of establishing friendships and professional connections after moving to Chattanooga still fresh, she realized how valuable time spent in the company of other women can be.

“When you’re with likeminded people, you’re going to make friends,” she points out. “Networking is inevitable.”

The seven women who are working together to the group off the ground certainly have the desire to give back in common. But they’re also a diverse group made up of women from different walks of life.

Like the group’s kaleidoscopic logo, created by Emily Long of CityScope Magazine, they are each bringing their own unique color to the palette from which 100+ Women Who Care Chattanooga is being created.

The alliance has also come to mean something different to each one.

Co-founder Brittany Alcala is the co-owner of Embargo 62, a Cuban-themed restaurant located in Chattanooga’s North Shore community. She says 100+ Women Who Care will give her and her husband’s business an opportunity to contribute to the community in a tangible way.

“We’re asked daily to donate gift cards or whatever else we can to different charities, and we do as much as possible, but 100+ Women Who Care is a great opportunity for us to be planted in an organization that will allow us to see where our contributions are going,” she says.

“We’ve not giving away a gift card; we’re giving something concrete to someone.”

Callie Limerick, a 28-year-accountant with Delegator, says 100+ Women Who Care will give her a chance to return the blessings Chattanooga has given her. “I was born and raised here, and I love this city,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to give back to the place that’s given so much to me.”

100+ Women Who Care is providing Chavarri with an opportunity to begin building a legacy that extends beyond her career and family.

“A lot of people have brought me through difficult seasons in my life,” she recalls. “My favorite quote is, ‘You aren’t truly fulfilled until you do the impossible for someone else,’ and people have done the impossible for me. Now I want to begin giving to others.”

Chavarri and the others have set aside Tuesday, Oct. 1 for their inaugural meeting. It will take place at Embargo 62 beginning promptly at 6:30 p.m. (Chavarri will use a stopwatch to make sure the meeting lasts only an hour.)

In the meantime, the ladies are spreading the word through their social spheres, a process aided by the launch of the organization’s Facebook page (www.100pluscha.com) and website (www.facebook.com/100PlusCha).

The Facebook page tallied over 100 “likes” within 24 hours of being posted, giving the women hope that their venture will take off. “That doesn’t mean those women are coming to the meeting and writing a check, but they know about us and they’re spreading the word,” Childress says.

“We don’t expect to have more than 100 women for our first meeting, but that’s our goal,” Chavarri adds.

In the meantime, 100+ Women Who Care Chattanooga is developing the criteria it will use to determine if a charity is eligible to receive funds and is considering which nonprofits it will present during its first meeting.

The group has also secured its first corporate sponsor: Re/Max Renaissance Realtors.

100+ Women Who Care Chattanooga is also focused on making sure the first event will be an evening to remember. “It’s going to be a girls; night out,” Chavarri says. “I love to laugh, and while we’ll be there to take care of business, it’s going to be fun.”