100 Women Strong only the beginning for growing charity

by Michele Collins 

Jennifer Yozwiak and MaryJo Clark met in 2016. They shared an interest in helping their community, in giving back to those in need.  

They also were busy professional women with families and careers. They talked about how they could fit fundraising and charity work into their already crowded schedules.  

The answer? They founded and serve as co-presidents of 100 Women Strong Ohio – a 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds for local charities. 

“We really wanted to give back, but we needed to find a way to do it that was easy and that was vetted, so our dollars would be used in the right way,” said Yozwiak. 

Yozwiak said she had heard about a women-led giving organization from her mother in Texas. She spoke with Clark about it, and the two spent about a year planning their own version.       

In 2018, they launched 100 Women Strong Ohio (100womenstrongohio.org), an organization with a mission that is simple yet powerful. 

“What if like-minded women gathered together? What if these women wanted to make an impact? What if they wanted giving to be easy, fun and rewarding?” asks the organization.  

Two years later, 100 Women Strong has helped hundreds of families. It has donated more than $100,000 to family-oriented charities, including Family Promise of Summit County, an organization that works to keep homeless families together, and Edna House, a Cleveland residence for women on the road to sobriety. 

Organizers of 100 Women Strong celebrate after a 2019 “giving circle” event, in which members choose a charity benefactor of its donation pool. Photo courtesy of 100 Women Strong

It works like this: 100 Women Strong seeks members who will contribute $200 each year. The funds are organized into two giving cycles, First Giving and Second Giving, each year. 

Local nonprofits seeking funding apply through an online application.  

“We have a committee that vets the charity organizations,” Yozwiak said. “They look at their financials. They look at the plan for how the money will be used. We make sure that the money we are giving is used in the absolute best way.” 

Then during biannual giving events, the collective group votes on which charity applicant should receive the large gift. Two other finalists receive smaller donations.  

“Everyone wins,” said Yozwiak. 

A third event, Tangible Giving, asks the women to donate goods or tangible items. Most recently, members contributed food.  

Clark said “the impact in our own community” is what makes being a part of the 100 Women Strong so powerful.

For example, In 2019 it granted $17,000 to Family Promise and $30,000 to Edna House. 

“The $30,000 for Edna House expanded the bathrooms at the facility that serves 47 women,’’ Clark said. “It made a huge difference in their everyday life, during a time when they were striving for sobriety.” 

Added Yoswiak, “The $17,000 we raised for Family Promise of Summit County will triple the space available to serve homeless families in our community,” 

A $20,000 grant to Fostering Hope in early 2020 will help with programming for children in the Northeast Ohio foster care system. The grant provides funds for birthday gifts as well as “journey bags” for the children to move their pesonal items from place to place with dignity.    

The 100 Women Strong name is a little bit of a misnomer. There are over 250 in the group, “approaching 300 women as of today,” according to Clark. 

Many are from Hudson, she said, but some live elsewhere. The group grows by one woman suggesting that her friend, neighbor or co-worker join. That person often brings someone else after attending their first giving event.  

The group includes young career women, working moms, empty nesters and senior citizens. All are welcome, and all can have an impact, according to the co-founders.  

Clark said each giving event is two hours. They meet two or three times a year. 

“We know women are busy, that they can’t come every week or every month,’’ she said. “We make it so you give your money, and the group plans the events, and you show up and vote.”  

Added Clark, “You see just how many lives can be improved by a group of women working together. “ 

For more information about 100 Women Strong Ohio, visit 100womenstrongohio.org. 

Feature image photo caption: In less than three years of operation, Hudson-based 100 Women Strong Ohio has donated more than $100,000 to charities supporting women and families. Board members (l-r) Meg Colafella, Mary Jo Clark, Amy Swegan, Sarah Forrer, Suzanne Wallace, Laura Stropki, Jen Yozwiak, and Joni Roecker held a 2020 giving event at a drive-in due to the pandemic.  Photos courtesy of 100 Women Strong