OWOSSO, Mich. — Something really special took place in an Owosso church parking lot. Thousands of dollars were given away.
Eighty-plus automobiles, driven by women who belong to an organization called 100 Women Who Care of the Greater Owosso Area gathered. Three times a year, they come together with the simple idea of giving $100 each to a local charity.
Members who represent a nonprofit or charity can put their name in a basket for a chance to be chosen to receive the pooled funds. Only three representatives from the nominations are chosen to pitch their cause to the group.
Cindy Schluckebier is a member of the group.
"We have this FM converter, and so everybody tunes the radio station to 98.3. We talk into a microphone. We draw three names out of the hat. The first person comes up, and they talk about their charity. Then we draw another one. They come up and talk. Everybody gets five minutes to talk about their charity. We give everybody a telephone number, and they text us questions. This way, we can ask the speaker the questions that are texted to us. Then, after all, three people speak, we vote."
The group started in 2016. And since then, they have given out $300,000 to local charities.
Cindy says, "a couple of pessimists said, we aren't going to get 100 people, and I said, 'Oh yeah, we're going to get 100.' In our first meeting, we had 153 people. We are at about 223 members right now. And we just decided that you know $100 by itself doesn't go very far, but when you put it together with all these other great women, and you have $22,000 or $23,000, that's a lot of money for our local charities."
One of the group's organizers, Sue Ludington, says something magical happens every time the women meet.
"Where else can you raise $22,000 in less than an hour? And it's all these women. I mean, we have 200 actually over 220 women that give $100 three times a year for all these nonprofits. They can do so much with $20,000. Some of them use the money toward matching grants."
The last time the group met, they chose Owosso's Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts to receive the money. Executive Director Kathy Brooks says it's an incredible gift, and she was able to secure a matching grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
"It would be very hard for us to open without this money. We have been very fortunate that we've gotten some government funding, but what we don't get in government funding is the means to reopen at a level that we are known for. So It's okay to be operationally sustainable, but people don't realize that it takes funding to reopen. And that is what this gift is for us to do. It's able to bring us back to life."
The Shiawassee Family YMCA was chosen as the latest nonprofit to receive funding from the women.
Laura Archer is the Executive Director.
"This means that we can welcome back families and kids in our community who haven't been able to afford the programming or membership we offer. We offered ten weeks of summer camp last summer safely. We had no issues with COVID at all. I'm thrilled to be able to offer it at hopefully no cost to as many kids as we can this summer. It's tremendous."
Carrie Rathbun Hawks is a regular member of the group.
"I just think it's an amazing thing in our community that this many women in a county this size have come together and made this commitment to do this."
100 Women Who Care of the Greater Owosso Area, congratulations, you are this week's Good Neighbors!
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