100 Women Who Care Maui: Kindness that adds up

Every few months, dozens of women have been gathering together on Maui for one hour at a time, with one goal in mind – to make a difference. At the end of each hour, thousands of dollars have been raised and one worthy cause has received a near-instant shot in the arm.

The group is called 100 Women Who Care Maui, and although the number “100” is an aspiration at this point, that hasn’t stopped the members who have accumulated from serving their community in big ways.

“People are overwhelmingly responsive,” said group organizer Chelsea Hill of Haiku, about those who’ve joined in. “And it’s exciting to me because here we get to be involved in social change and we don’t have to push the caboose up the hill.”

She first learned about 100 Women Who Care, which has chapters around the world, from her sister who had participated in Canada. The idea is that 100 women gather four times a year to donate $100 each, with the resulting $10,000 going directly to a cause that the women agree on by vote to support.

At the time, Hill was looking for a way to raise legal funds to protect a child in an alleged sexual abuse case. She decided to give the 100 Women concept a try and gathered as many women as she could. At that first meeting in December 2014, she raised $2,800.

Realizing she’d tapped into a fundraising model that made it easy for women to donate while making a substantial difference to a local cause, Hill, with the help of friend Mandy Prouty, decided to keep the momentum going.

Prouty had recently moved to Maui from Chicago and was looking for ways to get involved in the community. As a business owner with two young children, she said it can be hard to find time to give back, so the 100 Women group was a perfect fit. She started helping Hill with getting the word out and finding new venues for meetings.

“The feeling after a meeting is one that is hard to explain,” Prouty said. “You realize that there is so much going on here on Maui and so many people with huge hearts willing to help.”

According to the 100 Who Care Alliance, a resource compiled by chapter leaders to support groups worldwide, the concept emerged in 2006 in Jackson, Mich., where a group of women

raised $12,800 in less than an hour for a family health center that needed to supply cribs for new mothers. There are now more than 350 active chapters that encompass both women’s and men’s groups, along with mixed-gender and children’s groups, according to the alliance. A 100 Men Who Care Maui chapter has also sprung up and has supported causes such as the Boy Scouts of America Maui County Council and Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui, according to the group.

Hill said the concept is ideal for people who don’t have a lot of free time but want to give back to their communities. At each meeting of the 100 Women Who Care Maui, any member can nominate a cause of her choosing. Each cause is put into a hat and three are drawn. The nominating members of those three causes then give brief presentations to the group, which then votes on a cause to support. Hill and Prouty try to keep the process short and simple.

“Officially, and we really try to stick to this, the impact is made in one hour,” Hill said.

Group member Christina Hays has participated since the first meeting and said the ability to make a difference in a short amount of time appealed to her.

“It’s just been growing and growing, and it’s an amazing group to be part of it,” she said.

Hays also enjoys the chance to meet other women in the community, many of whom are working with the groups and organizations seeking funds.

Those who join are asked to commit to donating $100 at each meeting. If a member can’t attend, they’re welcome to send a check along with a friend, Hill said.

Some chapters require donations to go to groups with official nonprofit status, but Hill’s group allows causes of any kind to be nominated if they are based in Maui County. Local branches of national or international organizations can also benefit, as long as the funds stay here.

Hill and Prouty have been able to find support from venues willing to donate space for the meetings, including Lumeria Maui, Maui Country Club and the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center. The next meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. March 30, will also be at the Hui in Makawao, where staff have pitched in to help organize the dinner afterward, a feature Hill and Prouty added to meetings to allow women the chance to mingle. The social periods are optional.

“Busy ladies can hit the road,” Hill emphasized with a laugh.

Since the first meeting, 100 Women Who Care Maui has gone on to donate funds to Grow the Change, which works to create school and community gardens, and A Cup of Cold Water, which distributes food, clothing and other supplies to those in need. Maui Deaf Friends received over $4,000 at the group’s December meeting.

Beth King, a supporter of Maui Deaf Friends, had been hearing about the 100 Women meetings and decided to attend last-minute in December. Just as she was signing up and learning how the meetings work, Hill announced last-call for nominations. King realized she could nominate Maui Deaf Friends, and slipped in her nomination in the nick of time. She couldn’t believe her luck when the women voted to support the group, which works to raise awareness and provide resources for Maui’s deaf community.

“They were so happy for me, they were just happy to help,” she said of the women. “And I was just amazed.”

She said the gesture of support, and the dollar amount that would have been nearly impossible to raise with car washes and T-shirt sales, has inspired the group to push even harder to reach its goals.

Hill said the meetings have opened her eyes to all the worthy, “chicken-skin amazing” causes that exist in Maui County.

So far, the largest attendance has been 43 women. Hill said she hopes to start holding meetings all over the island to expand membership, with the aim to eventually include 100 women, or more.

“That’s my goal, is to be able to hand $10,000 to a great cause on Maui, over and over again, every quarter,” she said. “All of our members are hoping for that, really.”

* Chelsea Duncan can be reached at cduncan@mauinews.com.