'Giving circle' grows influence in Georgetown
What started out as a dream of 13 women to make a difference in Georgetown, has grown into an organization that has given more than a quarter of a million dollars to nonprofits helping the community.
Seeds of Strength, a women's "giving circle" that has blossomed into 105 members, was founded in Georgetown in 2009. Eugenia Koog, chairwoman of Seeds of Strength, said the 13 founding members were inspired to create the organization after observing the effect similar groups of women were having throughout the nation.
"We just started talking to people and expressed our interest in coming together, and found that many, many women had our same values, our same purpose, the same desires for the community," she said. "We ended up with 55 members that first year and gave out five grants."
The five grants totaled $55,000, and in 2011, the group went on to direct $91,000 back into the community.
This June, Seeds of Strength gave out $105,000 to 10 nonprofits that are located in or serve Georgetown residents.
Each Seeds of Strength member or group of members, which are comprised of two to four individuals, pays $1,000 in annual dues into a donor-advised fund of the Chisholm Trail Communities Foundation, the umbrella organization for Seeds of Strength.
Christine Hightower, membership chair for Seeds of Strength, said the collective giving aspect of the organization is one factor that made her decide to join—multiplying the impact her donation has on the city.
"All of a sudden, my $1,000 becomes $100,000," she said.
Twenty nonprofits submitted grant applications to Seeds of Strength in 2012, and after a grant committee narrowed them down to 12 finalists, members had the opportunity to visit each organization.
In May, each member casts one vote for the organization of her choice. The top 10 finalists get the grant money. Before members vote, the nonprofits make one final presentation to Seeds of Strength.
Koog said the evening can be emotionally moving, and sometimes members change their minds about which nonprofit they want to pick after hearing the presentations.
"Last year I went in pretty sure of who I was going to vote for," Hightower said. "But then listening to the stories again, and hearing stories [from organizations] I was not able to visit, I changed my vote."
Because members learn more about the nonprofits that serve Georgetown, Koog said many decide to volunteer or become more involved with the organizations.
Membership in Seeds of Strength is open to anyone, and Koog said the group has members in their 20s to those in their 90s. Seeds of Strength plans to hold its annual membership luncheon on Sept. 13 in the historic Williamson County Courthouse.
For those who are interested in learning more about the organization, several informal coffee meetings will be held throughout the summer. The first one is scheduled for July 28 at 2 p.m. at Moksha Yoga on the Square, 824 S. Austin Ave.
"It's a very diverse group of women, but we do have one thing in common, and that is that we want to make an impact on our community in a positive way," Koog said.
Nonprofit grant recipients for 2012:
- The Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown: $20,000
- The Georgetown Project: $20,000
- Capital IDEA: $10,000
- Georgetown Symphony Society: $10,000
- GirlStart: $10,000
- Williamson County Historical Museum, Inc.: $10,000
- The Caring Place: $7,500
- The Christi Center: $7,500
- Faith In Action Caregivers - Georgetown: $5,000
- LifeSteps: $5,000
Seeds of Strength, 116 W. Eighth St., Ste. 201, www.seedsofstrength.org