When 950 people get together to empower Tri-City area women and children, they’re able to raise a lot of money.
This year’s 16th annual Women Helping Women Fund Tri-Cities collected about $125,000 on Oct. 13 in Pasco.
That brings the total amount the nonprofit has raised to more than $2 million, funding 102 grants aimed at addressing the unmet needs of women and children throughout the Columbia Basin.
Last year’s event raised $113,000.
“We’ve been empowering women and children since 2001 because of the generosity of our sponsors and people just like you who want to make a difference,” said Peggy Vasquez, president of Women Helping Women Tri-Cities. “With your help, we’ve given $1.8 million back to our community. In essence, Women Helping Women exists because of the generosity of our community.”
The annual luncheon, held at the TRAC facility, is the group’s sole fundraiser.
The organization solicits sponsors to underwrite the luncheon, speaker and other fees “so we can tell people that 100 percent of what you give here is going back into the community,” said Alysia Johnson, executive coordinator.
Those who went to the annual luncheon paid a minimum of $100 to attend.
“You may not realize it, but the sheer amount of people in this room, offering their support, means the world to a woman or child at their all-time low. For them to know they have a community standing behind them will mean the world to them. Thank you, for being there for them, for supporting them,” Vasquez said.
Courtney Clark of Austin, Texas, was the keynote speaker and she shared her story about being diagnosed with melanoma at age 26.
When she hit her five-year cancer-free milestone, she had a routine scan that showed more bad news: she had a brain aneurysm close to hemorrhaging.
She had a series of brain surgeries in 2011 to treat the aneurysm, which had shown no symptoms and could have ruptured at any time.
Clark talked about how her health problems derailed her life and how “all along the way I had to keep stopping my life.”
Despite always envisioning becoming a mother, her cancer treatments meant she couldn’t have a baby, she said.
“Sometimes our lives change in front of our eyes ... and they don’t look like what we planned or wanted,” she said.
Her nonprofit work with Austin Involved, which connects young professionals to meaningful philanthropic opportunities, changed her life again — this time for the better and in an unexpected way.
It put her in contact with a young high school student who had dreams of college and success as a musician. Courtney and her husband, Jamie, since have welcomed Anthony into their family.
“Being a mom doesn’t look the way I expected,” she said, explaining that giving gave her more than she ever thought she’d receive in return. “I got everything.”
She told her Pasco audience she knew they had stressful lives but reminded them “we are at our best when we keep perspective about our struggles,” which is done by helping others.
She urged those in attendance to not only give financially, but also of themselves and to be positive role models throughout the community.
Roshellia Goines of Richland, a project manager at Bechtel, bought two of Clark’s books after her talk.
“I think (her story) was just phenomenal,” said Goines, adding that she thinks Clark’s story would be a great one for a TED Talks, a popular lecture series on a variety of topics.
The annual luncheon also included the inaugural “I Am Women Helping Women Award,” which went to Adelaide Cashman of Kennewick.
“This amazing woman has gone from skeptic, to table captain, to board member, and not necessarily in that order. She believes charity begins at home and has seen, first-hand, the difference our collective community can make in an individual life,” Vasquez said.
Since 2003, Cashman has raised more than $46,000 for the nonprofit.
“Women Helping Women is a great group that does everything for the community — everything stays here. All the donations stay here. Try to find any other organization that gives 100 percent of what you give back: It’s really hard to find. And charity begins at home and home for us is the Tri-Cities and we need to help those in need here,” Cashman said in a video played at the event.
This year’s seven grant recipients are:
This year, $16,000 is going toward the group’s endowment fund and $109,000 will be directed toward programs. The Tri-City nonprofit is modeled after a similar program in Spokane.
Grant recipients don’t yet know how much they’ll receive. They’ll find out in early December during an award ceremony.
They must provide the nonprofit a mid-year progress report on how they’re using the money.
The deadline for next year’s grant applications is in March. More information available online at whwftc.org or by calling 509-713-6553.
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!