A Passion for Giving

By Kathy O’Dell
The Flame Volunteer Writer

For 16 years I was a fundraiser for Southwestern Illinois College Foundation.

It was the most rewarding job I ever had – Why? Because I saw first hand the joy people receive from funding a student’s scholarship, or helping to make the Schmidt Art Center a reality, or other rewarding projects.

Always interested in new paths to follow, I first heard about Giving Circles at a national conference.

At that time, most of the giving circles were made up of women pooling their gifts for special causes. The final decision on who would benefit was usually determined after research was completed and reports were shared with members. The members voted on the distribution of dollars.

But what I thought was a new idea was really an idea outlined in Acts 2:44-45: “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.”

“And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.” — Acts 2:44-45

That too sounded like a “giving circle” to me.

Later I read Stephen B. McSwain’s “The Giving Myths: Giving Then Getting the Life You’ve Always Wanted”.  What McSwain wrote jolted my heart about giving:

“I’ve written this book to remind you that, for all the insights you will find on self-help shelves in bookstores, you will find purpose, peace and contentment when you start doing one thing – giving yourself away, first to God and then to others. Let the giving of your money be the place you start. Everything else in your life will start falling into proper place.”

Six months later, I saw the TV show Bill Moyer’s Journal, as he interviewed Leymah Gbowee, a woman from Liberia who inspired and led other women to unite against a dictator and warlords to restore the rule of law to their country. In the first 15 years of Liberia’s civil war more than 200,000 people had been killed, one out of three were homeless and two-thirds of the females were victims of sexual assault.

Gbowee had a dream. “And it was like a crazy dream, that someone was actually telling me to get the women of the church together to pray for peace.” Gbowee – over her strong objections – was named the leader of the women.

In a Bible class on Esther, I read of Mordecai’s reminder to Esther: “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?”  Esther was willing to die for her people.

And the nudges I felt to do something just kept on coming.

It hit me again as I read Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel. This is the compelling, true story of Stearns’ acceptance of God’s call to set aside worldly success as CEO of Lenox China to accept the post as CEO of World Vision— to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world.

Stearns wrote, “We might imagine that God’s vision for our world is like a great jigsaw puzzle. You and I are the pieces in His hands, and He places them in just the spots where our particular shapes, sizes and patterns best fit with the other pieces. No other person has our same abilities, motivation, network of friends and relationships, perspectives, ideas or experiences. When we, like misplaced puzzle pieces, fail to show up, the overall picture is diminished.”

By the time I finished Stearns’ book I knew it was time to see if we could put together a giving circle and women I knew from Christ Church and other churches said “yes, let’s do this.”

Today Women4given is in its sixth year of awarding grants. It’s an affordable giving circle with a membership of $1 a day or $365 annually.

To date, the circle will have awarded over $100,000.

What started as a circle of 15 women in 2010, is now a 501c3 nonprofit organization with nearly 50 members from as far away as Florida.

There is always room for the circle to grow. If you are interested in learning more, you can visit the Women4given website at www.women4given.com or email any questions to women4given@gmail.com

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