Dames Untamed


Recently a cable TV network ran a Mother’s Day movie marathon that they called “Dames Untamed”, highlighting movies with strong female leads like Thelma and Louise and You’ve Got Mail – what many refer to as “chick flicks”.

I thought it wonderfully appropriate for me to use that title to describe two of the three non-profits where I volunteer.   Both of these non-profits are run by powerful cadres of women, all volunteers in service to the missions of the organizations.  I stand in awe of these women!!!

The first is FISH which stands for Friends in Service to Humanity.   This is a local charity that for 30 years has provided food and clothing to local residents in need.   All the food and clothing are donated, and the woman who delivers the food keeps the food pantry in her basement!   FISH supplements the local social service agencies, providing assistance that these agencies can’t provide, or can’t deliver when the need is urgent.

There is a hotline that people in need within the municipalities that FISH serves can call and FISH volunteers respond to the messages seven days a week.   Often, it is someone who is waiting for their food stamps to start, or whose circumstances have suddenly grown worse and can’t wait to wade through the red tape.   FISH doesn’t have an office or any overhead – there is a board and committee chairs who handle the various tasks like keeping a calendar of the phone volunteers and soliciting donations from the community; everyone is a volunteer.

FISH recently helped a man fighting cancer who could only digest strawberry Ensure and was able to survive because FISH delivered weekly supplies of it to his home.  I do not know of a government agency who could have performed this service.   The stories of those in need are endless;  I have taken calls from people needing help paying their rent because of an injury or with an urgent need for food for their children.   FISH also maintains a children’s clothing pantry.

I love the fact that FISH is helping people in my local community and that everything I donate goes to the people in need.   I don’t have to worry about corruption or administrative expenses taking a significant cut of what I donate.

Another women-led non-profit is Impact100 Garden State whose mission is “to engage women in philanthropy by collectively providing high impact grants to nonprofits serving the counties of Morris, Passaic, Somerset, or Sussex.   Our goals are to provide transformational funds to organizations that reach under-served populations; to raise the profile of those that are deserving but lesser-known; and to highlight unmet needs in the areas of Arts and Culture, Children and Families, Education, Environment, and Health and Wellness.”

Since 2013, Impact100 Garden State has awarded over $700,000 in grants to help New Jersey veterans, the homeless and food insecure, preschool children from low-income families, at-risk youth, and the disabled and elderly.

Here is what is unique about Impact100 – to become a member, you are asked to contribute $1000 a year, no small thing.  The membership money becomes the source of the funding for the grants (no fundraising required of its members), and all this membership money is pooled for the grants it awards; none is wasted on any administrative costs.   As a member, you can get involved in a variety of committees (for example, a grant review committee), or you can do nothing other than vote on the grants that have become finalists at a yearly membership meeting.   Impact100 has chapters all over the country and each one works within a local geographic area; you may have one in your neck of the woods and not even know about it.   The Impact100 Garden State just celebrated the close of its membership drive, and because we have 282 members, we have $282,000 in grant money to award to our grant finalists this year!   Amazing!

I only became a member last fall, so I am still learning a great deal about Impact100, but the women that I have met so far are just phenomenal – women from all industries and ages – talented and smart and natural leaders in their fields.   If leadership could be measured in kilowatts, the light from these women would light up our solar system.    Like the women of FISH, the women of Impact100 have seen the need in their communities and have decided to do something about it.

If you would like to learn more about either of these non-profits, or become an “untamed dame” yourself, leave me a message.   I will be writing about my third non-profit involvement in a future blog post.

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