Deborah Race

Summer begins a busy season for the Women’s Fund of Smith County. June marks the beginning of the grant cycle — the time when nonprofits seeking grants submit their grant requests, and this period continues until July 15. After the applications period closes, the Grants Committee begins its hardest work. While the Women’s Fund board and membership ultimately decide on the recipients, it is the Grants Committee that actually considers the applications, narrows down the applicants, visits the nonprofits and conducts interviews with the finalists before making a recommendation of the final recipients to the board.

I have always loved the mission and work of the Women’s Fund, but it has been my time on the Grants Committee that has been transformational and opened my eyes to the needs in Smith County, as well as to the many wonderful people and nonprofits working to address those needs. I always had an interest in how the grant process worked and eventually was able to serve on the committee. Vera Moore was chair of the Grants Committee when I started and I was awed by the dedication and hard work invested in this process by Vera and the entire committee, as well as by Kristen Seeber and Patty Machin. Agnes Ward followed Vera and I continue to see the same commitment by everyone involved.

While working on the Grants Committee involves a great deal of time and work, it is well worth it. The opportunity to hear about and see so many Smith County nonprofits at work has been inspiring. And it seems all involved in this process share the same goal — to give people in Smith County more opportunities for a better life. And while that seems like a lofty goal, with each person these agencies — and through them the Women’s Fund — serve, that goal becomes one step closer to a reality.

It reminds me of the starfish parable Carol Langston told at a meeting I attended years ago:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, sir.” The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and, turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

So, with each project and grant, each agency is making a difference to those people served by giving them, as well as all involved, an opportunity for a better life. And with a Women’s Fund grant, that opportunity may come in a variety of ways, including providing quality health care and counseling, a safe place to call home, the magic of art and music in education, the wonders of a mobile planetarium and so many more.

Even if you are not able to serve on the Grants Committee, as a member of the Women’s Fund you are invited to attend several Grants in Action gatherings throughout the year. These gatherings give the grant recipients the opportunity to demonstrate exactly what the grant from the Women’s Fund has meant to the agency and the clients served. Seeing the grant in action really demonstrates its potential for transformation.

Together is truly better. And through the collective giving of the Women’s Fund, the members really do transform the community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children in Smith County. And others may find their lives enriched as well. I know my time on the Grants Committee certainly has enriched my life.

Deborah Race is a charter member of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. She currently serves on the Board of Directors and is also assistant vice chair for grants. The Women’s Fund of Smith County is currently accepting applications for 2020 grant awards. Submission deadline is July 15. For more information about funding criteria and to apply for a grant, please visit

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