100 Women Who Care York Region cross important threshold as difference-makers

·4 min read

If you had just 60 minutes to spare, what would you do with it?

Your first thought might be, “How much can you do in a paltry hour?” That thought, in turn, might be followed by a laundry list of things you hadn’t had time to do throughout the day – even laundry.

But here in York Region, just one hour can make a big difference if enough people row in the same direction.

100 Women Who Care, which celebrates its sixth anniversary next month, brings together 100 women every three months to learn, give and grow. Whether they were meeting in person prior to the pandemic, or seeing new and familiar faces in Zoom squares, they get together once a quarter, $100 in hand, to donate to one selected charity.

Nominating their favourite non-profits from the floor, two charities are selected at each meeting for consideration and, at the end, just one hour later, up to $10,000 can be directed to people doing good, particularly in sectors that have been especially-hard hit by the pandemic.

Over the last six years, these hours and dollars have added up.

After making their latest donation last week to The ABLE Network, an Aurora-based organization that provides learning, training and employment opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities, they have raised a whopping $238,183 for local groups.

“Our mandate has always been to reach local not-for-profit charities and trying to get the grassroots one,” says founding member Laurie Brakeboer of the group which has now re-branded to 100+ Women Who Care due to their success in participation. “It is about coming together [with $100 per person] for one hour, then multiply it over 100 women, raise over $10,000 and make a difference in the community in 60 minutes. It is making a huge impact on our community and that seems to be a big reason why so many women be with us.”

In addition to The ABLE Network, recent beneficiaries of the group include Newmarket’s Cedar Centre and Abuse Hurts.

At the start of the pandemic, however, it was unclear whether 100+ Women Who Care would be able to keep the momentum of their first four-and-a-half years going. Aware of the challenges so many individuals were facing at the outset of COVID-19, they cancelled their April 2020 meeting and instead asked members to donate their $100 to the charity of their choice; or, if they were in need themselves, not worry about a donation at all.

They made a virtual shift by July of 2020, where they have been running on Zoom ever since.

“It has been heartwarming how well women have accepted that mode of meeting, shown up and participated,” says Ms. Brakeboer. “We probably had more engagement in our virtual setting than we have face to face. It is easier to take our questions.”

It has also helped them get money more quickly into the hands that need it most. Donating to the Cedar Centre, 100+ Women partnered with Canada Helps which enabled their donation to head out smoothly and almost instantly. The same method was followed when Newmarket’s Margaret Bahen Hospice was the lucky recipient, a welcome cash infusion to help them cover the cost of PPE and other COVID-related expenses when opportunities to fundraise through other channels was limited for the residential facility.

“It has been inspiring the number of members [who have taken part] and we have had new members come on board during this time, which was amazing to all of us,” says Ms. Brakeboer. “The more we grow, the more money we give to charity, but we decided about a year ago to step back (on new membership) because of everybody having so many things going on personally and professionally.

“Last July at our second virtual meeting, we told all of our members we would be opening up meetings to anyone they wanted to invite; it would not be for them to come on board for recruitment or to make a donation. We opened it up for anyone who had a family or friend who needed something other than school, work, or aloneness to join in.”

And many have kept coming back.

“By coming together with this group for more than one month, they know they have made a significant change in our community,” says Ms. Brakeboer. “Four times a year they know they can actively participate in something really incredible for a charity that is serving the community.”

For more on 100+ Women Who Care, the work they do, and how to participate, visit 100womencyr.ca.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran

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