New ‘giving circle’ fosters togetherness while funding Franklin County nonprofits

From left, Clare Pearson, Karen Hogness and Kim Klein, pictured in front of the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center where Franklin County 100+ Women Who Care will host their quarterly meetings. The women aim to recruit 100 members for their May 6 meeting.

From left, Clare Pearson, Karen Hogness and Kim Klein, pictured in front of the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center where Franklin County 100+ Women Who Care will host their quarterly meetings. The women aim to recruit 100 members for their May 6 meeting. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By AALIANNA MARIETTA

For the Recorder

Published: 04-30-2024 9:19 AM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Three friends are looking to turn $50 donations into $5,000 contributions for nonprofits across Franklin County.

Shelburne Falls residents Clare Pearson and Kim Klein, along with Charlemont resident Karen Hogness, are starting a Franklin County chapter of 100+ Women Who Care, a group they describe as a “giving circle.”

Ahead of the chapter’s quarterly meetings at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center, members nominate nonprofits with a location and impact in Franklin County. Over wine, seltzer and snacks, the women meet on the first Monday night of February, May, August and November, and drop their ideas into a hat. A member of the chapter’s Steering Committee then draws three organizations from the hat and the members behind the final three make the case for their picks. Next, attendees vote and the results are tallied while a previous funding recipient shares the legacy of the group’s donation.

When they finally announce the winning nonprofit, every member immediately pulls out their pens to write a minimum $50 check directly to that organization, or $25 if they are under 25 years old, before the Steering Committee compiles the checks into one gift.

Over the course of an hour, the members’ $50 checks add up to a donation that makes a significant impact, Klein and Hogness said. Although the chapter currently consists of about 50 members, the two women aim to recruit 100 members for their May 6 meeting, which would result in at least a $5,000 donation to support a local nonprofit.

“This is really powerful to stand together and make that kind of contribution,” said Klein, who has worked with three nonprofits over the course of her career.

Klein and Hogness stressed that the group meets in person as both a giving circle and a social circle.

“It’s its own form of empowering when you’re in the presence of other women who care about issues as deeply as you do; there’s an expansion that happens for every person,” Hogness said.

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When the members share their often personal nonprofit picks, these connections surround them with support.

“It’s a hundred of your friends, basically,” Klein added. “This is not a PowerPoint presentation. … You’re talking from your heart.”

After working at for-profits for many years, Klein said she turned to nonprofit work later in her career and “never looked back.”

“It made me feel better about what I was doing,” Klein explained. “It was actually helping somebody.”

Hogness now volunteers as a nature educator and substitute teacher at Academy School in Brattleboro, Vermont, after running Avery’s General Store in Charlemont for 42 years.

“I think what you learn as you get older is it becomes less about what you do, and what really becomes important is who you are,” Hogness said. “Who are you and does that job allow you to be the person you want to be, or do you have to forget about that?”

Retired now from full-time nonprofit work, Klein added, “You sort of lose yourself after you don’t have that place to go to every day.”

Both women described Franklin County 100+ Women Who Care as a pathway back to their calling and community.

Referring to Avery’s General Store, Hogness said, “It was a business of connection. You knew your community, and that’s what I would like to keep finding. … This is a way to feel connected.”

Those interested in joining Franklin County 100+ Women Who Care can email clare@clare.pearson.net for a membership form.