Diane Siemer, representing Siemer Milling Company; Joedy Hightower, President/CEO of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation; Karen Etter and Melissa Willenborg, co-founders of 100+ Women Who Care Effingham County and co-chairs of its steering committee.
The Effingham County Community Foundation advisory board has named 100+ Women Who Care Effingham County as the recipients of the 2017 Richard C. Siemer Outstanding Philanthropy Award for its charitable contributions to several organizations and projects in the area. The award was presented on Thursday, October 5 during the Effingham County Community Foundation Hometown Event.
100+ Women Who Care Effingham County is based on a giving circle model in use throughout the country and is a form of philanthropy in which a group of individuals donate their own money to a pooled fund, decide together where to give the funds and, in doing so, seek to increase their awareness of and engagement in the issues covered by the charity or community project. Members contribute $400 annually. An initial payment of $100 goes into the 100+ Women Who Care Effingham County Endowment to be used for future grantmaking in the community. The remaining $300 is contributed to three non-profit organizations or community projects in Effingham County.
100+ Women Who Care Effingham County was established in 2016 by Melissa Willenborg and Karen Etter after learning about the giving circle concept and attending a meeting of 100+ Women Who Care Vigo County in Terre Haute. “We knew immediately that this was something we wanted to bring to Effingham County,” stated Karen. “We knew the community would embrace it and support it but neither of us could anticipate all of the potential impact that a giving circle would have on us, on the members and on the community. I am overwhelmed and proud of the way the ladies of Effingham County have stepped up to recognize and support the needs of organizations in their communities. They are stepping up, not only financially, but also as volunteers, to take a personal response to meeting those needs, not just relying on another entity to support our local organizations.” Karen explained that several giving circle members have started volunteering at local organizations, such as CEFS/Golden Circle Nutrition Program, after learning about those organizations during the one-hour meetings. She continued her praise of giving circle members, stating “the number of women stepping out of their comfort zone to speak and represent these organizations and projects in our community is incredible. I believe it’s not only helping these organizations but changing the lives of our members. They have taken ownership of our giving circle and made it their own. It’s amazing.” Melissa added her praise of the giving circle, stating “I love the diversity of the group. We have women in their 20s and 70s, working in the home and outside the home or who are retired. This giving circle gives every woman the opportunity to give in a simple and efficient way that is making a huge different in their communities.”
Since their first meeting in April 2016, this new organization has awarded more than $75,000 to six local non-profit organizations, plus, they have built a permanent endowment of nearly $30,000.
Giving back to the community is important to both Karen and Melissa. Karen also serves on the Effingham County Community Foundation advisory board, Effingham County CEO board, CASA of Effingham County board, and is currently a mentor and investor in the Effingham County CEO program. Melissa has served on the finance committee for Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation and is a past president/member of the Effingham County Community Foundation advisory board. She has served on the St. Anthony’s school board, Effingham Women’s Tennis League, and former member and past president of PEO Chapter NF.
Melissa and Karen believe that the giving circle will continue to grow and have an even greater impact on Effingham County. “Our goal is to have 180 women in our membership before our April 2018 meeting. If we reach that goal, we will split the contribution between two recipient organizations,” explains Melissa. The giving circle is hosting a membership kick-off on Thursday, February 8 at Tuscan Hills Winery from 5-7 p.m.
The Richard C. Siemer Outstanding Philanthropy Award was established by Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation in 2011 and first awarded to Rick Siemer who stated, “I really think that 100+ Women Who Care is the most impressive philanthropic initiative of recent years, with big potential for increasingly effective charitable impact. The enthusiastic, growing engagement of women in the cause is a clear demonstration of that potential.” In addition to Rick Siemer, award recipients include Tom Wright, Dr. Rick and Angie Workman, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, Paul Dee Johnson, and Jack Schultz.