Pooling dollars, making a difference

Presenting our fall donation of $12,760 to the Gibraltar Food Pantry. Thank you to member Leeanne Schultz for nominating the food bank, and to member Carol Woggon for all the great work you’re doing in our community to help combat food insecurity.

100 Women Who Care Downriver donates thousands to charities

Tom Tigani

Giving to others has become increasingly important in a time of economic stress, but a group of Downriver women has been ahead of the curve for some time.

Since its founding in  February 2016, 100 Women Who Care Downriver has donated $139,810 to multiple local charities. The first donation was $1,700 to Vista Maria in Dearborn.

“We meet three times a year, vote on a local charity, and everyone writes a $100 check to the chosen organization,” said Riverview resident Lori Hawkins, the group’s founder.  “It’s simple!  When we all work together, we can make a bigger difference in charities that do such great work in our own communities.

“It’s really a giving circle. I read about one in the Albion College alumni newsletter and thought it was an interesting concept.”

Of about 135 active members, 100 Women Who Care Downriver boasts 18 from Riverview, 30 from Grosse Ile, eight  from Southgate and 10 from Wyandotte. Members range in age from the 20s on up.

“We started with 12 after I called a couple of friends,” Hawkins said, “and from then on it got bigger and bigger. Even though I put it together, our advisory board members put in a lot of time and effort. It wouldn’t work without all of the members.”

It’s now a chapter of an international group, as are other such  groups all over Michigan. 

“Since we began, a couple of women from Monroe County joined and eventually started their own,” she said. “ It’s really taken off.”

While members can and do donate individually, Hawkins said that collectively, the group makes a much greater impact on local charities. 

“When you get a big group, that $100 turns into significant amounts of money,” she said.

A recent example is the $18,000 donated in late 2020 to Downriver for Veterans. A donation currently is being collected for ChristNet, a Taylor-based seasonal shelter program open from October through May.

Meeting attendees who want to bring a charity for group consideration make a five-minute presentation, the charity’s name goes into a hat and members then pick three. The No. 1 criterion is that the charity is based Downriver or has some scope of business in the area and is a 501(c)(3) organization. 

Often the presentations are a chance to hear about charities that previously were unknown. Even charities that don’t “win” sometimes receive donations beyond the $100 or donations of time from group members..

“We also ask what sort of project would be funded, or what wouldn’t they be able to do without donations,” Hawkins said. “People really like that it provides a way to give back to our community when people are busy. It’s very quick, and our actual meetings are always finished in an hour.”

Before COVID-19, the group met at places like the Riverview Public Library or Fiorelli’s restaurant in Flat Rock, and some members would stay on after the vote. 

“It’s a really nice night when we could meet, socialize and network,” Hawkins said.

As one might expect, however, meetings currently are virtual.The generosity level, however, is unchanged; a recent Facebook live event collected nearly $13,000 for the Gibraltar Food Pantry.

“I am humbled and thankful for the generosity of all of these women,” Hawkins said. “It will be really great when we can meet again. Those meetings are so inspiring. People don’t know where to donate, and this makes it easy and has a greater impact.

“I come home from meetings on a high. People are excited to be there and want to give back, but are not always sure how or where. To have this camaraderie is really fantastic.”

Recipient charities

2016: Vista Maria ($1,700), ACTS ($1,600), Mimi’s Mission ($2,200)

2017: Bottoms Up Diaper Bank ($3,500), Rudy’s Sock Drive ($4,500), Debbie’s Closet ($5,100)

2018: Mimi’s Mission ($7,600), Mi Cookie Project ($8,600), ChristNet ($13,600)

2019: Enchanted Makeovers ($15,300), Penrickton Center for Blind Children ($16,150), Metro Detroit Share ($16,150)

2020: Downriver for Veterans ($18,000), Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund ($12,850), Gibraltar Food Pantry ($12,960)

2021: ChristNet (final amount pending)