In Gregory David Robert’s fictional novel “Shantaram,” the protagonist, Lin (Linbaba), spends years living in the slums of Bombay. During his time there, he gets to know and love the culture and customs of his community. One of the things he witnessed was a group of villagers pooling together their funds, around 100 rupees each week (equivalent to about one U.S. dollar), and once a month the lump sum would be awarded to one of them. It was often the most amount of cash they would ever have at one time, and it was vital in order for them to make the big purchases that would support their livelihood; such as an oven for the house, tractor parts for farming or medical treatments.
That philosophy has made its way to our neck of the woods with Sandpoint’s newest 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, 101 Women. 101 Women provides a simple way for local women to create power in numbers and give to local organizations in need. At each bi-annual meeting, the 101 Women will give three local non-profit grant finalists the opportunity to explain the purpose of their group and their need for funding. At the end of each event, the entire membership of 101 local women vote and choose the winning local non-profit who will receive up to a $10,000 check so that they can make an impact on their work.
101 Women is able to give such a large sum at one time due to the annual donations of its members. Each member is asked to donate $200.00 annually, $100 for each event, and commits to two events per year, one in spring and one in fall. The annual donations will tally up to over $20,000 and will be distributed directly into the local community.
“Two hundred dollars is a lot of money for a lot of people,” said board member Jennifer McDonald. “But this isn’t $200 dollars to go to a table at an event. It’s going straight to the cause.”
In addition to the annual donation, the organization asks for a low annual membership fee of $25 to cover operational costs. Simplicity being the cornerstone of 101 Women, each member is also asked to bring either an appetizer or beverage to one meeting per year, to keep the events low cost.
101 Women was founded after locals Angela Dail and Jennifer McDonald found that the fundraisers they worked hard on together were earning some money but not enough to make a real difference.
“There’s a dire need in a lot of the places that do good work, scraping pennies together just to keep it going,” McDonald stated. “The human heart is incredible.” A mutual friend of theirs first saw the idea online, 100 women gathering funds to donate to a cause of their choice. “It seemed so simple, it should be that simple,” McDonald added. The two got the ball rolling starting with a few meetings here and there, then launched the organization into action when they brought Rebecca Orchard on board. “Our best call was to Becca, she’s such an efficient task master,” McDonald stated.
The organization’s first grant cycle garnered 24 applications, which then went through a point system with a rubric to be graded on a five-point scale. “After that, we took the top nine organizations and visited with them to learn more about each one,” said McDonald. 101 Women’s grant committee, comprised of three board members and six committee interested members, then decided upon the top three using a criteria: significant impact, clearplan and desired outcomes, and strong collaboration with the community.
“Being part of the grant selection committee was a privilege. We had 24 applicants, and I learned so much about some of the wonderful organizations in this community,” said 101 Women member, Patty Hutchens, who also sits on the organization’s grant committee. “The people of Sandpoint truly care about one another, and it is evident through the numerous non-profits that work hard each and every day to make a difference.”
101 Women’s grant committee invited finalists to present at the organization’s inaugural event, which was held in an outdoor tent on September 22 at the Idaho Club. The finalists included Bonner Partners in Care, Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc., and Court Appointed Special Advocates. Finalist Bonner Partners in Care (BPIC), located at 2101 Pine Street in Sandpoint, is a volunteer staffed, low-income clinic that offers affordable health services for the general public and uninsured, serving a need that does not go away.
Finalist Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc. (SASI), is a non-profit organization that provides local senior citizens over the age of 50 with nutritional meals five days a week, as well as serves as a gathering place for social, recreational and wellness programs. SASI also hosts the Day Break Center, open Tuesdays and Thursdays, which provides day care services for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, giving their caregivers a break or enabling them to go to work.
Finalist Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a national association, advocates for children that have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or have found themselves in court through no fault of their own. The local branch, North Idaho CASA that serves Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone counties, seeks to ensure that every child in Idaho’s Judicial District lives in a safe, healthy and nurturing family environment. “They run on a tight budget, and what they’re doing is absolutely incredible,” said McDonald.
After a vote, it was revealed that the 101 Women selected Bonner Partners in Care for their inaugural grant. “We are super excited to have been chosen as the first recipient of this generous opportunity,” BPIC Director Amy Topp said. “We plan on utilizing the funds for our direct service cost. This includes lab work, diagnostic testing, prescriptions and specialist referrals.” Topp went on to say that the organization tries to help alleviate the costs of those types of services to their patients when they come in needing more assistance than they can provide in a night. Unfortunately, most of the time they are unable to help as much as they’d like.
“Instead of only being able to pay for a prescription for a patient, we will be able to pay for the prescription and the lab work they need. Or if they need an M.R.I., we would be able to help with that cost as well as paying for the consultation appointment with a surgeon.” Topp explained. “All of this grant money will go directly to helping our patients, and we couldn’t be more thankful.” 101 Women presented Bonner Partners in Care with a check on Friday, September 23 at Farmin Park.
While 101 Women are not currently accepting donations, it is something that they will approach in the future. “One of my visions, if this is sustainable, is that hopefully in five years we can pass it down to the high school level,” explained McDonald. The idea would be to have 100 givers, both boys and girls, that would donate $20 annually then donate the sum to a cause of their choice. “It’s important to let them see what it feels like to give back and to think outside of themselves,” she added. The organization’s spring meeting date is still being determined, but they have set the deadline for grant applications for March 15, 2017.
If you would like more information on 101 Women, or want to apply for the next grant cycle, please visit their website at 101womensandpoint.wildapricot.org , or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.