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Local Women Who Care hoping to increase ranks

3/6/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

FAIRLAWN — The Summit County group of 100+ Women Who Care started the same way many other chapters have, with one woman.

In terms of numbers, the local group doesn’t quite yet live up to its name. A year since it started, about a dozen women have conducted four meetings, resulting in almost $4,000 in donations to local charities.

What the women have done so far is good, according to organizers, but their goal is to expand — hopefully tenfold.

“We would love to be able to get 100 women doing it,” according to one of the group’s founders, Lisa Berardinelli, who added it would be great if the group could present $10,000 to a local charity following one of its quarterly meetings.

The purpose of 100+ Women Who Care, which started in Jackson, Mich., in 2008, is simple but effective, according to local organizers. Members show up at quarterly meetings to pool their resources, each writing a check for $100 to one local charity they choose together. They can make the biggest impact that way, according to local organizers, by handing over a large donation on behalf of the whole group.

Around four years ago, the initial group of 100 women at their first meeting in Jackson raised $10,000 to buy 300 new baby cribs for an organization in that city, according to local organizers. Since then, groups have sprung up in communities as far away as London, with several already established in Ohio, according to local organizers.

Berardinelli remembers seeing an article in an area newspaper touting the organization, the first of which appeared in the summer of 2010, as the Cleveland Metro group was getting started.

“It sounded really cool, and I filed it in the back of my head,” Berardinelli said.

Later, she learned a Medina County group was forming closer to home and made a mental note to attend one of their meetings.

Berardinelli and Gabrielle Nuzzi, co-founders of the Summit County chapter, launched the local group while attending yoga teacher training at Yoga Bliss last year, to fulfill the course’s Seva requirement. Seva is Sanskrit for “selfless service to others,” according to Yoga Bliss officials.

Berardinelli said the pair’s Seva project, which benefited from guidance from the Medina County organizers, resulted in a $1,100 donation to local shelter ACCESS Inc. from the April 2013 inaugural meeting of 100+ Women Who Care Summit County.

Since then, they’ve given $700 or $800 each to three other local nonprofits, including the International Institute of Akron, Whitehawk Ranch and, most recently, Rahab Ministries, she said.

The next meeting of 100+ Women Who Care Summit County is set for April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Yoga Bliss, located at 3045 Smith Road in Suite 300. The yoga center donates use of the space for the meetings, which last less than an hour, Berardinelli said. There is no need to make a reservation to attend a meeting, she said. Women can just show up — and are welcome to bring friends, she added.

There are more than 660 eligible organizations, which are nonprofits that are located in and provide help to people in Summit County, with donations being 100 percent tax-deductible, according to Berardinelli.

Each member commits to donating $100 four times a year. If $100 a quarter seems a bit steep, teams are also welcome to join, Berardinelli said, noting that the Summit County group does not yet have any teams registered.

“If you can’t afford $100, you can afford $25 with three friends,” Berardinelli said.

Groups get one collective vote.

“You’re still making a huge difference,” she said,

If a member is unable to attend a meeting, she may give her check to another member to deliver on her behalf or she may mail it in after the meeting.

To decide where the donation goes, the names of three charities are drawn from those nominated during the meeting. Any member can nominate a charity, even at their first meeting, said Berardinelli. The three chosen are each the subject of a five-minute, informal presentation by the individual who threw their name in.

After the presentations and questions and answers, members cast their votes to select the winner. Majority rules, and every member is expected to write a check to the winning organization, she said.

Later, some of the women get together to deliver the checks to the selected organization, said Berardinelli.

Also, a representative from the selected charity is invited to speak to the group at their next meeting to report on how the money was spent.

Charities can be nominated more than once, but they can only win once, she said.

The meetings are very informal, Berardinelli added. Woman who are unsure if they want to make the commitment to join are welcome to come and observe a meeting, with no pressure to join, she said. If someone does decide to join, she can fill out a commitment form during the meeting.

Even as 100+ Women Who Care makes strides to live up to its name by increasing its membership, group members are already making a mark.

“You really are making a difference,” said Berardinelli. “It has an impact.”

For more information, visit the website 100womenwhocaresummit.weebly.com or email 100womenakron@gmail.com.

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