Yolanda Robali, waiting in a church parking lot with about a dozen other women, held a glittery gift bag. It wasn’t for anyone’s birthday or baby shower, but inside that fancy sack was a gift, all right — it was filled with checks and cash totaling $11,600.
Robali, of Lake Stevens, is part of 100+ Women Who Care About Snohomish County. “A Simple Concept. A Big Impact,” says the website of the organization founded a year ago.
Three times a year, women in the group donate $100 each.
From a list of local nonprofits they’ve nominated, they pick three to possibly support. At a meeting — they’ve been getting together at the Milltown Sailing Association clubhouse on Everett’s waterfront — the three chosen organizations do short presentations. And after the nominees leave the room, the women vote on which agency gets the money.
It all adds up to real help for groups that, often on a shoestring, make lives better in all kinds of ways.
On Tuesday evening, the recipient was Mercy Watch.
“We are just moved beyond words,” said Dennis Kelly, a Catholic deacon who founded Mercy Watch in 2016.
The all-volunteer Mercy Watch team hits the streets of Everett two evenings each week. A parking lot across from the Everett Public Library and a nearby church are bases of operation. Mercy Watch also provides medical help through mobile clinics. For people who are homeless, struggling with addiction or mental health issues, volunteers give out food and blankets, offer encouraging words and information about other resources.
It’s what one Mercy Watch volunteer, Evergreen Middle School nurse Gail Pyper, described in a Herald article last December as “a ministry of presence.”
Kelly, executive director of Mercy Watch, met the small contingent from 100+ Women Who Care in the parking lot of Everett’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. His volunteers gather there before evening outings. “I’m so grateful,” he said as he accepted the $11,600 donation Tuesday night.
The money, he said, will likely be added to a previous $10,000 donation to acquire and equip a medical van. Through its street medicine outreach, Mercy Watch conducts mobile medical clinics at the Everett Gospel Mission and the needle exchange program in Everett.
“A lot of women want to do something,” said Everett’s Janet Bacon, who founded the local 100+ Women Who Care last year with Dani Hixon, of Lake Stevens. Both had been part of the greater Seattle chapter of 100+ Women Who Care, but wanted to help their own community.
The 100 Women Who Care movement began in 2006 when Michigan’s Karen Dunigan learned about a health center’s effort to provide portable cribs to parents of newborns. In all, the cost would be about $10,000. Reaching out to friends for $100 donations, it wasn’t long before checks totaling $12,800 were given to the Center for Family Health in Jackson, Michigan.
From that successful start, Dunigan founded the first 100+ Women Who Care.
If parting with $100 three times a year sounds like a lot, consider this: In four months, there are roughly 121 days. By setting aside $1 a day, a donor will save more than enough for that $100 commitment.
The local 100+ Women Who Care group sticks to basic rules. Recipients must be 501(c)(3) nonprofits, and not churches or political groups, serving in Snohomish County. They must be willing to do a short presentation at a meeting of the women’s group.
Donors write checks directly to the chosen nonprofit, and recipients must mail them tax receipts. Recipients are also asked not to use donors’ information in future fundraising efforts.
“So far, we’ve given $33,125,” Bacon said after presenting the Mercy Watch donation. The other recipients of more than $10,000 each were Homage senior services, for its Minor Home Repair program, and Faith Food Bank and Community Meal in Everett.
“In nine months we’ve done this,” Hixon said. “It’s almost effortless,” added Everett’s Sue Rieke, also part of 100+ Women Who Care.
The work of Mercy Watch is far from effortless. Kelly expressed thanks and shared some of the challenges his group’s volunteers face.
“The toughest part for folks on the street, they feel people have given up on them,” he said to the donors. Mercy Watch fills some material needs, but also aims to let people on the street know “you really do have a purpose in this world,” Kelly said.
“You guys are always going to be part of it,” he told the women whose gifts, together, will make a big difference.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
100+ Women Who Care About Snohomish County: www.100womensnohomish.com/
Mercy Watch: https://mercywatch.org/