By Gabrielle Tieman

Every active citizen wants to help improve their community; but being able to make an immediate, direct and positive effect on the lives of your neighbors may seem like a daunting and unattainable feat for the average person.  But 100 Women Who Care, a new charity to Niagara, is removing the impossible factor and making it easy for women looking to give back to the community in the easiest way possible.

The concept behind the 100 Women Who Care project is not only simple, but highly effective; a basic equation of one hundred women joining together to each donate one hundred dollars along with one hour of their time to equal a large impact on a local community charity – at least a ten thousand dollar impact to be exact.

And to local founder Sylvia Berezowski, the project isn’t just simple, but it just makes sense.

“A lot of things happen in your life that inspire you,” said Berezowski. “I read about this in the Globe and Mail when they were featuring 100 Women London, and when I read it, I thought the simplicity of it, the effectiveness of it, really just wowed me. I just thought; why not contribute to our community? Why not make our community the best it can be.”

Though the charity first began in the United States, it is not a new concept to Canada. Having welcomed its first chapter two years ago in Toronto, it has since only continued to grow and expand throughout the country. Having prepared for months and done her research, Berezowski launched Niagara’s first chapter in June with the intention of following in the same footsteps set by those groups that have done so well in improving their local communities.

“Everything was going really well in their chapters,” said Berezowski.”They gave me some tips on how to start my own so I spoke to some friends and I thought ‘If I could at least get 10 people, who I know who would be on board, then I would go with it.”

Today, those 10 women have expanded to over 136 women representing the surrounding areas of the Niagara Region that will be considered for donation; and the numbers continue to grow by the hour as the women creep closer towards their inaugural meeting September 17 at the Americana Resort in Niagara Falls.

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“Our goal was originally 100 and even then I said ‘Wow, if we get to one hundred women to commit that will be really exceptional,’” said Berezowski. “Now maybe we will be looking to 200; the number keeps crawling up and up.”

As a mother of three and a full-time high school teacher at Saint Paul Catholic High School in Niagara, Berezowski understands how hard it is to balance a full schedule while giving back to the community. She believes it is the minimal time commitment and simple idea behind the project that have been the keys to drawing the hard working women of the area.

“I’ve done volunteer work here and there but never to an extent where it was a major part of my life,” said Berezowski. “But this is what drew me to this; the time commitment. I have never been able to volunteer at the kids’ schools or in the community because of time. So this is a minimal time commitment. The meetings are one evening, four times a year.”

Really all that is needed is a drive to help your community and a cheque book.

“Within three or four years you’re hitting a dozen charities and you’ve infused a lot of money into them,” said Berezowski. “To make a donation on this scale, to give upwards of 13 thousand dollars, that is really huge and would really make a difference to any small community charity.”

And like the other chapters, Berezowski said there will be no red tape, no administration fees and no middle man, with 100 percent of the funds going directly to the charity.
But for an organization to be chosen, the following criteria must be met: the organization must be based in the Niagara Region, be a registered, not-for-profit or charitable organization able to supply a tax receipt and it must be previously established. All submissions are screened for legitimacy and then placed in a hat, allowing three proposals to be drawn at random for group consideration and vote.

“[The Charity] has to have some impact on the local community to be chosen,” said Berezowski. “Our consideration for local is broad though, it takes in the whole Niagara Region, and I believe that’s why the group is increasing because it is quite broad. We have at least a few women representing every community, from Fort Erie, Grimsby, Niagara, St. Catharines and more.”

Any member may submit a charity through online submission at least one week before a meeting for consideration. But everyone who submits a charity must be prepared to do some legwork; if your charity is randomly drawn, the nominator must make a presentation to the group as to why their charity deserves the group’s support.

“If your charity is picked at random, you need to be able to speak on it,” said Berezowski. “It is only a five minute presentation, but you need to be convincing as to why we should pick your charity. If it doesn’t sound very legitimate or on the up and up, it won’t be voted for.”
The group hopes to not only open women’s eyes to charities in their community they may not have been aware of prior, but as well, create an atmosphere for empowered women to meet and network with likeminded individuals, all banning together to make a difference.
“I know it is 2014, it’s not the Dark Ages, but for us to come together and do something as impactful as this – women who are moms, are working full time, who are caregivers to their parents, it’s empowering,” said Berezowski. “A women’s role is multifaceted, but now to come together to do something else, that’s really impressive. And you will meet all of these women with similar ideals.”

For more information on getting involved with 100 Women Who Care Niagara, visit 100womenniagara.com

Caption for Photo
Original Members of the Niagara Chapter
Back row:  Left-Right:  Paula Matowski, Maureen Kelly, Joanne Santini, Frances Gregotski, Fiona Halliday
Front row: L-R:  Silvana DiBellonia, Yvonne Diodati, Sylvia Berezowski