By Kat Walsh
Once upon a time, 100 women got together and decided to make Beaufort a better place.
Four times a year, in the basement of the Education Building of First Presbyterian Church in Beaufort, 100 (or more) women gather for an hour to change our community through the power of collective philanthropy.
They’ve been meeting since 2015 and, in that relatively short time period, they’ve raised $240,405 for non-profit organizations in Northern Beaufort County. That number bears repeating: 100 women have raised almost a quarter of a million dollars for local charities. And that’s the whole point of — and power behind — 100 Women Who Care, a nationwide organization based on the simple concept of bringing women together to make a large impact on their community.
Bringing 100 Women to Beaufort
The Beaufort Chapter of 100 Women Who Care was founded in January 2015 by Jeneane Ryan. She had been a founding member of the Naperville, Illinois, branch and, when she moved to Beaufort in 2014, knew that it was an idea she needed to bring to her new hometown — especially after she discovered there were no chapters of the organization in South Carolina.
“I will always fondly remember the first meeting of 100 Women Who Care Beaufort,” Ryan says. “Two of my friends came down from Naperville to help and, sitting around my kitchen table that morning, we placed our guesses of how many women would show up. I said I would be happy with 30. My friend guessed 60, which I said would have been incredible. Well, 105 women joined that night, and 20 more followed within the week. To say I was beyond thankful, awestruck and humbled would be an understatement.”
“The whole concept of the organization is really amazing — an effective, impactful way to make a difference,” says chapter leader Laura Riski.
There is no committee work, no soliciting, no selling. You simply attend a one-hour meeting four times a year, listen to three short presentations on local charities, vote on which one to support, and write a check directly to that chosen charity for $100.
The most recent recipient of the group’s efforts — Circle of Hope Ministries — was announced at the group’s first meeting of 2019.
The “Church Without Walls” Finds A Home … with Walls
Pastor John C. Dortch, the founder of the Circle of Hope Ministries, greets everyone he meets with a hug. “I’m a hugger,” he smiles. Indeed, he’s made it his life’s work to embrace, physically and otherwise, those who need it most.
For the past five years, Circle of Hope, a portable ministry nicknamed “The Church without Walls,” has been working with the homeless — particularly homeless veterans — of Northern Beaufort County. In the past year alone, Pastor Dortch and his ministry team have worked with 87 homeless individuals, a significant accomplishment, but only a small fraction of the problem. A survey conducted by the Beaufort County Alliance counted 4,000 homeless people in Beaufort County.
“Every day, someone knocks on my door who is hurting,” Pastor Dortch says. “One of our real challenges is that affordable housing is an issue here. Where can people go when they’re ready to move on with their lives?”
The answer? Build it yourself. And that’s exactly what Circle of Hope is doing at 1816 Boundary Street. The new 12-bed facility, the only one of its kind in Beaufort County, will provide transitional housing and wrap-around support services to help homeless veterans get back on their feet. And with the help of 100 Women Who Care, and many other generous donors and organizations, it will open before the end of the month.
Together We Are Stronger
The efforts of 100 WWCB go above and beyond writing a check.
“Because our members are engaged with the organizations they support, they get interested in the cause and, often, find something they really want to become involved in on the ground and start volunteering,” says Riski. “It’s a circle for us as well.”
For more information on 100 Women Who Care Beaufort, please visit http://www.100wwcbeaufort.org. To learn more about Circle of Care Ministries or volunteer, visit http://www.circleofhopemin.org.
Photo at top from the left: Cherie Lasher, Reverend Dortch, Laura Riski, Sharon Davis, and Karen Rogers present the check on behalf of 100 Women Who Care Beaufort. Photo by Sandy Dimke.