If there is a simple way to gather more than 100 people in a room for one singular focus, 100+ Harbor Women Who Care has found it.
And it’s quite successful, thanks to Maryann Welch and her cadre of nine other women from Grays Harbor County who make it happen.
100+ Harbor Women Who Care is an organization borne out of a smaller one that started in Michigan. The idea is to invite women — in this case, from Grays Harbor County — to hear three nonprofit organizations speak about their causes. Then after short, timed speeches and a question-and-answer session for each group, the crowd that shows up all votes and the winning cause or program gets the money.
Cash and checks are accepted. Each person must bring $100 in order to vote for the cause of their choice. However, if someone does not have $100 to give, they can pool their money with a few other women in order to get a vote.
The next event is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday. But show up early, for parking, and for having a grand old time with friends, snacks and cold refreshments. The Hoquiam Elks Lodge will tend bar that night.
When the women met in October, more than 120 women got together at Hoquiam Elks Lodge 1082 — 624 K St. — and raised $14,200. The money went to The Walkthrough, a program that is part of Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP). The program helps homeless youth from 12- to 17-years-old. It doesn’t just house them, it provides them experiences they wouldn’t normally get, such as field trips.
In addition to the $14,200 the 100+ Harbor Women Who Care raised for The Walkthrough, a national foundation is awarding the program an additional $5,000. The name of the foundation will not be shared here. But the important thing is the additional finances goes to a worthy cause.
“They add in the $5,000,” Welch said. “It’s almost a $20,000 award. That’s a big impact I think.”
Welch wanted to emphasize the importance of helping the more than 600 nonprofits throughout Grays Harbor County.
“They range from just a little tiny thing to big organizations like CCAP for instance. … They do important work in our community and they employ a lot of people,” Welch said. “They’re a big part of our community. I think just acknowledging that they do good work, they work hard, and usually under circumstances that are underfunded. I kind of want to focus on that a little bit.”
The money that is raised is also unrestricted, meaning that when the check is written to the winning cause, it’s spent how the cause sees fit.
“Some people say when they’re gonna give money to an organization, they want to know what it’s going to be used for, and they don’t want it going for administration,” Welch said. “People also say they don’t want it going for salaries.”
But there’s one problem with that — people work for the causes.
“You have to have money for administration,” Welch said. “That means you have to keep the lights on, you can keep the doors open. And they have to have money for salaries, or who does the work? You can’t just put the money on the table and then the work gets done. I feel real strongly about that. They need to have money that’s unrestricted in order to do good work.”
Welch, who’s been part of 100+ Harbor Women Who Care for years, realizes the concern about the unrestricted money.
“But I don’t think there’s anyone in this community that is in that position,” Welch said. “I don’t think our nonprofits are like that. They’re always looking to have new services and new programs, and looking out for opportunities to get more money (to help).”
A few days before the event, people are probably wondering which nonprofits will show. But that’s the trick here, Welch explains.
“You’ll know that night!” Welch said. “It’s pretty random when we draw the nominated cards. Everyone wants to know that. That’s part of the thing, the reveal.”
As of Thursday, it’s not known how many people will be at the event.
“Lots of people have seen our Facebook page and have either liked it or said they’re coming,” Welch said. “But, a number is pretty hard to come by. Last time we must have had about 140 or so. And then the time before that we had 160-some. I would expect that it’ll be about 120 or so. That’s my expectation, but I don’t know.”
In October, a large portion of the room was full, but there were still seats available. Welch is hoping for another big turn out. According to Welch, the nonprofits would also love a big turn out.
“The organizations that come to speak, when I tell them about this, I emphasize they have the opportunity to have the ability to talk to over 100 women about what they do, and that can pay off in the future for them,” Welch said. “I think the organizations who are coming to speak, they’re very excited to do it. And they say ‘We don’t care if we win or not. We think it’ll just be a great experience to do that.’”
For people who show up, if the nonprofit they vote for doesn’t win, they can still send additional funds directly to the nonprofit of their choice.
But, be prepared to shed some tears. In October, Bill Mullikin, program manager at The Walkthrough told a heartbreaking story that thankfully ended up a success story. The story started from a young lady who came to the program after facing sexual abuse.
Fortunately, the story’s end is a happier one.
“We hooked her up with Aberdeen High School. She’s thriving,” Mullikin said. “She aged out of the shelter and into my young adult program. We’ve got her housed. We’ve got her still going to school. She’s gonna graduate before she turns 21. She’s the most amazing, happy, fun, young lady you’d ever want to meet.”
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at email@example.com.