The local chapter of 100 Women Who Care celebrated its 30th meeting last night and raising more than $300,000 for the community's non-profit organizations since it first began.
Since the first meeting of the Central York Region chapter in October 2015, the group has grown from 40 members to more than 150 who each make a quarterly donation of $100 to a selected charity.
And the members have raised more than $311,883 and supported 30 different organizations, including the Newmarket Food Pantry, Southlake Foundation, CMHA's MOBYSS bus, Rose of Sharon, Inn From The Cold, Abuse Hurts and Fill a Purse for a Sister Campaign.
Chapter founder Laurie Brakeboer said she was inspired by the idea that "I could give $100 or I could give $10,000.”
At the meetings held four times a year, members from Newmarket, Aurora and East Gwillimbury hear pitches from two fellow members about charities worthy of their support. The members then vote and make the donations that accumulate to more than $11,000 each time.
"I look forward to this four times a year. It’s like an energy booster to get me through the next three months. It is so inspirational. There’s women here of every age group, every career,” Brakeboer said.
Bev LeBer, a member of the organizing committee since its inception, said she loves seeing the community that has been created when the members meet.
"You can hear the buzz of the room and how they’ve come together as a group," she said.
There were a number of new members at the April 26 meeting, including Joanne Witt, director of fund development at the York Region Food Network, who learned more about 100 Women Who Care after the food network was chosen to receive a donation of about $13,000 last fall.
"It was great and the money from that donation is being used in a number of our programs," she said.
The York Region Food Network runs community gardens, provides breakfast programs and cooking classes, offering education on healthy eating, as well as socialization.
Witt said the donation from 100 Women Who Care could cover the whole cost of the breakfast program for two-and-a-half months or cover several months of the garden programs.
"That's how significant their donation is for us, especially as a smaller organization. We can really stretch those dollars a lot," she said.
Witt added her first meeting last night was everything she expected it to be.
"Everybody was so nice. Especially when they see people that are new, just about everybody at some point came up to me and said, 'Welcome, hey, congratulations, we're so glad you're part of it,' whether they knew me or not, which was so nice," she said.
The meeting was held at Market Brewing Company in Newmarket, which provides its space without charge as a longtime supporting partner of the chapter.
The 30th meeting milestone was celebrated with cake before the usual business.
First, a cheque for more than $11,000 was presented to Blue Door, which was the organization chosen at the previous meeting in January. Michael Braithwaite, CEO, attended to receive the cheque and shared how the donation will support the Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold program.
The two members made their presentations and ultimately the group voted to make a donation to LOFT Community Services Street Reach van, which was pitched by member Ivana Todd.
The van travels to areas where people are known to be in need and is equipped with food, clothing and shoes, sleeping bags, tarps and blankets, condoms, needles, and other supplies. Staff on board can include mental health workers, harm reduction and outreach workers, peer support workers, and housing outreach workers.
The next meeting of 100 Women Who Care Central York Region will be held in July.