Growing and giving during the pandemic

Published 8:24 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2020

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Not even a pandemic can slow these ladies down from helping their community.

The Women’s Impact Fund started its first year in 2019 with 30 members. Despite having their second year during 2020, the group saw a growth in both membership and funds.

“To see substantial growth in a second year, and that year being 2020, I think is really exceptional,” said Mary Haddad, chair of the Women’s Impact Fund.

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The Women’s Impact Fund’s mission statement is, “To further facilitate and develop philanthropy among women to address the needs of women and children in the City of Suffolk and surrounding areas.”

When a woman decides to become a member, she is asked to donate $1,000, and members have an annual fee of $500. This takes away the need for fundraising due to the generosity of philanthropic members.

This year, they donated $3,800 worth of grants to Suffolk and Western Tidewater programs that uphold their focus on literacy and leadership. This is an increase from the $3,500 donated in 2019. The grant recipients included Suffolk Public Library for its healing kits, Envision Lead Grow Inc. for the Suffolk middle school girls’ leadership boot camp, REACH Inc. for The Genieve Shelter’s literacy programs and the College and Career Academy at Pruden for its CNA tuition program.

“We go out and examine organizations that execute that focus,” Haddad said. “We aren’t about making new programs, just contributing to existing ones.”

The organization started when Harry Cross approached Haddad and Debbie Russell at the Suffolk Foundation to see if the non-profit could develop a way to include more women. Haddad and Russell created a group loosely based on the United Way’s Women Organization and invited 20 women to a luncheon to make the board of what is now the Women’s Impact Fund.

“These women had dynamic conversations,” said Haddad. “They talked about being in business, being stay-at-home moms, being held back by society, and how things in our culture are changing for women.”

Now the board meets every other month, and members meet twice a month to network and discuss how to move forward with their mission. Usually, these members meet face-to-face, but the ladies have faithfully met over Zoom since March.

The membership meetings usually consist of the women dividing into two groups to focus on leadership or literacy. Then, they choose an organization that concentrates on their particular focus. After that, the board decides the amount for the grants and approves the choice.

“All the decisions on where the money goes comes from the members themselves, not the board,” said Haddad.

The Women’s Impact Fund has a goal of reaching 100 members. The current 40 members are stay-at-home moms, businesswomen and more. Haddad hopes that next year, as soon as it is safe to gather again, the ladies will reconnect and continue their growth.

“Our goal is 100 members, but we are not going to have a cut-off, though,” said Haddad. “Everyone is welcome to come join.”

Visit to learn more or become a member.