Three years ago, Maryann Welch helped start 100+ Harbor Women Who Care with phone calls to local women.
Those phone calls resulted in 160 women each giving $100 of their hard-earned cash — a total of $16,000 — to a local nonprofit.
The idea was a simple one.
“You would get together 100 women to get $100 each to get $10,000,” Welch said. “Now, it’s all over the world.”
The expectation in 2019 was the group would be a much smaller one. Welch refers to it as a “group” because it is not a charity. 100+ Harbor Women Who Care just organizes the event.
“One thing that was kind of unique for our (group,) I understood, is you just start small,” Welch said. “You have your event and you invite people, and only like 50 show up. But then (from that) you get $5,000.”
The higher attendance, and in the first year on the Harbor, was a pleasant surprise.
“I don’t think that happens very often for these new groups,” Welch said. “And it just goes to show you that women here are waiting to give. And now they have this mechanism to give through.”
The winner that year was The Cancer Alliance of Grays Harbor, which “strives to support cancer patients living in Grays Harbor County … by providing needed assistance with basic expenses, such as food, gas, utilities and medical expenses,” according to the nonprofit’s mission.
Welch was tight-lipped when The Daily World asked her Monday who the three nonprofit organizations would be this year. The group meets at the Hoquiam Elks Lodge — 624 K St., — on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The evening starts with a “social hour” starting at 5:15 p.m. The program begins at 6 p.m. Each presentation lasts about 10 minutes, and then there is a short question-and-answer session that follows. The surprise is which local nonprofits will be there.
The nonprofit organizations cannot benefit twice in a row, which helps spread the wealth through the area to other nonprofits.
Welch said it was “very generous” of the Hoquiam Elks Lodge to let the event happen there, and for free.
“And we know it is probably the best place for us to have our event,” Welch said. “So, we’re using it for a second time and hope that we can continue.”
While Welch prefers to be humble about what she helped achieve in 2019, the reality is she started something good in Grays Harbor County. And the women who showed up to the event learned more about the giving organizations in the area. Her daughter is one of them.
“She got to learn about three organizations that serve the community — nonprofits — that she had heard the names of them before, but she never heard what they do,” Welch said. “She got to have a glass of wine with her friends, and then she got to give her $100 and be a part of the big impact, and she was home in time to put her kids to bed. That was very impressive to her.”
Something different about the “100+ Harbor Women” group is that it’s not a formal one. Women who want to show up Tuesday night with their $100, check or cash, can do so with no expectation they attend in 2023.
“We didn’t feel that long-term commitment would be something people would be especially interested in,” Welch said. “They see one time they can give $100, but maybe in three months they won’t be able to, or they won’t want to. So that’s the difference in ours. We keep it real simple.”
Welch said at first the thought was that $100 would be a lot for women to give.
“But, we didn’t hear that at all,” Welch said about the event in 2019. “We didn’t hear that was a problem. It was like women came out, they had their $100 and they gave it.”
Welch talked about how the group’s shared act of kindness makes it better.
“The impact feeling is something that’s really powerful,” Welch said. “If I go to a nonprofit and I say, ‘Here’s $100. I’m donating $100 to your organization,’ that just sort of gets in the mix of their budget, and there it is, $100. But if you come together with over 100 women and you end up donating $16,000 to an organization, that makes a big impact. Every woman in that room was a part of that.”
The original group started in 2006 in Jackson, Michigan. Karen Dunigan, the former mayor in Jackson, had received a call about the need for cribs for babies. The need then stemmed from the city’s infant mortality rate.
“(It) was on the rise due to a lack of cribs,” according to Welch.
Dunigan was asked by a friend named Molly if she’d be willing to organize a fundraiser with the goal of raising $10,000.
“Karen just didn’t have it in her to coordinate another formal fundraiser, but she believed in the cause,” Welch said. “Karen asked Molly to give her three days to think about what she could do to help. Karen knew she had 100 friends who could donate $100, so she picked up the phone, invited them all to dinner at a local restaurant, and asked them to donate.”
That initial event for 100+ Women Who Care raised $12,800 in donations. The donations paid for 300 new baby cribs.
Since then, the Jackson, Michigan chapter has grown to more than 200 members. And 100+ Women Who Care chapters have spread throughout the United States, Mexico and several other international locations, according to Welch. There are chapters consisting of men, children and couples. As of 2020, there were over 700 chapters operating throughout the world.
While Dunigan died on April 15, 2014 after a battle with cancer, her sisters, Jane and Patty, have kept her work alive.
Welch sounded grateful for the work they did to continue Dunigan’s legacy.
“Each of us involved with a 100+ Women Who Care chapter is grateful to Karen for the impact she had and continues to have in this world!” Welch said.
While the 100+ Harbor Women Who Care chapter was supposed to happen in 2020, and the group had the nominated organizations, the pandemic stuck a wrench in that plan.
“We had people fill out a nomination as they left the last event, thinking we were going to be having another event in March of 2020,” Welch said. “But, then, we missed a lot. But, we’ll probably make that up. I think the women are going to be really excited about the upcoming (event.)”
For women who were not at the last event, but are interested in joining 100+ Harbor Women Who Care, they should prepare for a fun night. Welch explained the enjoyment from 2019.
“The atmosphere there was electric,” Welch said. “Everyone was so engaged. Everyone was so happy to see each other. It was just a great turnout for the group of women.”
Molly Bold, another one of the 10 core group members, shared her thoughts on 100+ Women Who Care.
“100+ (Women Who Care) is a simple, effective, and fun gathering to join,” Bold said. “Don’t you just love Grays Harbor? Despite all odds, the people of this community continue to lead with generosity on so many fronts.”