Ten Years, Ten Stories – Success Beyond Expectations!

We’ve done it, again. The Women’s Fund of East Tennessee is not only celebrating a ten- year birthday, but also the most successful fundraising event in its ten-year history. At the September Annual Luncheon, we raised more money than we ever have, thanks to YOU, our generous supporters, sponsors, advertisers and virtual table hosts!

No one could have predicted the long-term effects of the world surviving a lingering pandemic. While “business as usual” has improved significantly from early to mid 2020, we find ourselves remaining in a similar place as it relates to non-profit fundraising. How could we have ever known that so many large gatherings would be postponed or cancelled altogether over these past two years? For many in the charitable space, the inability to pivot to new methods of fundraising has been crushing. Yet, at the Women’s Fund, we are thrilled to report that we have persevered beyond what we ever thought was possible.

For the second year in a row, The Women’s Fund Annual Luncheon was changed from an outdoor event at Lakeshore Park, to a virtual one hosted by WATE and news anchor, Lori Tucker. This year’s theme – the article title, “Ten Years, Ten Stories” – featured part of the original founding group of WFET, Marty Begalla and Alice Mercer, Executive Director, Terry Morgan, and the very talented Emcee and WATE story-teller, Lori Tucker. In celebrating so many years of incredible growth from the ground up, we were able to feature the most critical decisions and developments during the early years, those that served to ensure the success of our mission. The vision of the original five women (Carol Transou , Marty Begalla, Mary Ellen Brewington, Kay Clayton, and Alice Mercer) was to transform the lives of low-income women and girls in East Tennessee. What began in a living room, with an empty bank account and big dreams, has now grown to include a network of like-minded partners and almost a $4 million Endowment.

Two of the most crucial decisions impacting our growth over these years, and a significant part of the ten stories shared, were The Women’s Fund Endowment and Strong Women, Strong Futures Network. To borrow the words of Marty, “It was 2012 when WFET initially started presenting grants to individual organizations. Our focus then was life skills, works skills and education, and in the early years, we handed out over $400,000. However, by funding the individual work, we realized it was going to be a long time before we had a regional impact. So we decided to fund a network of like-minded non-profits, many of which were already recipients of our funding, and helping to expand the impact of our work throughout the 25 counties in East Tennessee we support. We couldn’t have continued this work in the first place without a well-funded and committed Endowment.”

Truly, as Alice and Terry both shared on set at WATE, our funding to-date has provided gifts and grants totaling over $1.5 million in support of life skills, work skills, and education. And even more exciting is the regional funding approach through the Strong Women, Strong Futures Network – who together with WFET – are working to break down barriers to post-secondary education…specifically to change the narrative to encourage low-income girls to choose to pursue post-secondary education (whether college, trade or technical school and certification).

Being virtual the past two years has provided the opportunity to interview some of the beneficiaries of this work and share their stories with you. Hearing from some of those young ladies, and a few of the Directors of our network partners, has allowed us to illuminate the difference your contributions make in helping those in our community hold on to hope and reach their dreams.

We hope that if you haven’t yet been able to watch the program and engage in the impact we are making in our communities, you will make time to do it! Click HERE to view the 2021 Luncheon show. And make plans now to join us next year, hopefully – finally – back under the tent at beautiful Lakeshore Park, as we celebrate another year at the 11th Annual WFET Luncheon on September, 22, 2022. Together, we can continue to accomplish Success Beyond Expectations!

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