TERRE HAUTE —
The level of food insecurity in the Wabash Valley was driven home for local leader Tina Elliott when she heard an unimaginable story from a friend who is a bus driver.
“My friend was heartbroken one day about a conversation she had with one of her students,” said Elliott. “The girl was upset that an impending snow storm might cancel school. When asked why she wouldn’t want a day off to play in the snow, she replied that she would miss the breakfast and lunch the school served. There simply wasn’t enough food in her home.
“I never thought that children would look forward to going to school just so they could eat a meal,” Elliott said, as quoted in a press release. “Unfortunately, that little girl is not alone. That is why I chose to advocate for Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank.”
Thanks to Elliott’s presentation about the more than 13,000 children who don’t have enough to eat during some time of the year, the 100+ Women Who Care Vigo County Chapter voted earlier this month to award Catholic Charities its fourth grant of the year. On Tuesday, the group presented $21,700 to the local organization just in time for the holiday season and the upcoming winter months.
“We are excited to partner in this way with a group of women who have decided that they can make a significant difference in the lives of so many who are struggling and finding it difficult in some cases just to get through each day,” said John Etling, agency director for Catholic Charities.
“This donation will allow us to continue to provide help and thereby create hope for those who are hungry in our communities. We want to thank these women for creating such an inspiring example of giving for all of us, especially at a time of year when our demonstration of thanks joins a chorus of many in the Wabash Valley who are thankful for all of the blessings they have received and are willing to share.”
The goal of Catholic Charities is to relieve suffering and hardship for people in need regardless of nationality, race or religion. Each year, the foodbank provides critical supplies to 92 nonprofit emergency food agencies including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters that serve more than 32,000 individuals in a seven-county area.
“I am so proud to be a member of the 100+ Women Who Care Vigo County, a compassionate and caring group of women, and to be able to present these donations to an agency that truly affects so many people in need,” said Elliott.
Catholic Charities will use the funds”
• to increase the capacity of the food bank, allowing it to provide more food each week through the BackPack program, which sends backpacks filled with food home with needy students each weekend
• to provide fresh vegetables and other items to local residents through the Mobile Food Pantry
• to participate in larger purchasing programs to stock area pantries
• and to expand delivery service to agencies throughout the Wabash Valley.
The 100+ Women Who Care Vigo County Chapter was co-founded earlier this year by local residents Beth Tevlin and Teresa Exline, who had heard about a similar group that had been started in Bloomington. The two enlisted other female leaders to serve on a steering committee to help recruit members and set policy on how the group would operate.
Members commit to paying $500 a year. The first $100 is an annual membership fee that goes into an endowment fund the group has started to create permanent revenue to aid local charities in the future. The remainder is paid in $100 increments at each of the four meetings the group hosts. At each meeting, members are allowed to submit a local charity to be considered for a grant. Also at each meeting, members selected three charities for presentations, and the group then votes on which one will receive the grant.
In its first year, the group has raised $102,800 including $21,800 for the endowment fund and grants of $17,500 to the Council on Domestic Abuse for improvements to its shelter for abused women; $20,300 to Art Spaces to support a tribute to Terre Haute native Paul Dresser in Fairbanks Park;. $21,500 to the Swope Art Museum for badly needed window replacements; and Tuesday’s $21,700 to Catholic Charities.
“When Beth and I first discussed forming this group about a year ago, we had no idea that it would take off the way it has,” Exline said. “To raise more than $100,000 in a single year in such a simple manner speaks volumes about the caring community in which we live.”
Exline added that the administrative support provided by the Wabash Valley Community Foundation and the generosity of Bill Burdine and the Holiday Inn in providing space and food for the first three meetings allowed the group to dedicate 100 percent of its proceeds to charitable purposes. This trend continued with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods hosting the November meeting.
The group currently has 217 members and hopes to attract more women for 2014. Tevlin indicated that anyone joining before Dec. 31 will be a charter member of the organization.
“This is a great group in which to be involved,” Tevlin said. “It is a tremendous networking opportunity for female leaders, and it only involves four one-hour meetings a year. Yet, the impact has truly been overwhelming. There are so many nonprofits in our county that are serving significant needs. This is a wonderful way of leveraging our resources to address these issues and make our community stronger.”
• For more information on joining, go to the group’s blog at: 100womenwhocarevigocounty.