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Harnessing the collective power of women

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By Cecelia Thompson

It’s December again.  Lights are up, trees are decorated and around every corner there is a reminder that this is the “Season of Giving.”

For so many that may trigger thoughts of last-minute shopping, searching for the perfect gifts for family and friends.

But to me, that slogan means so much more and calls to mind a particular person, a Guilford Green Foundation donor who embodies the true essence of giving.

Her name is Dawn Chaney.

In the early 90s, the Guilford Green Foundation didn’t exist as it does today.  However, the roots of the organization were being planted through “The Green Party,” an annual dance hosted by area gay men to raise money for HIV and AIDS.

At the time, Dawn was one of the few women who served on the board of the Green Party.

During one of those early winters, Dawn heard through a friend that two lesbian women in Greensboro lacked the money needed to keep their heat running during Christmas.

At that moment, Dawn realized the impact sexual orientation could have on individuals in her own town.

That’s when Dawn stepped in with a vision and a desire to do something larger than herself.  She gathered a group of women, and together they paid to heat the home for the winter.

Dawn never met the women, and to this day she doesn’t know their names, but in that moment, she understood the power of collective giving.

Together, women can make a bigger impact than by merely standing alone.

In 1996, with her help and enthusiasm, the board of the Green Party decided they had outgrown the once-a-year dance party, and the Guilford Green Foundation was officially formed to assist with not only HIV and AIDS but the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

As such, it seemed only natural that I approach Dawn this year when the Guilford Green Foundation was looking to expand our donor base of women.

Once again, Dawn saw an opportunity to make a difference and enthusiastically agreed to host an all-women’s fundraising party.

Dawn’s generosity and spirit of giving continued as she offered to match all donations at the event up to a total of $5,000.  With that in mind, we made a goal to raise $10,000 that evening.

On October 17, 2007, Dawn and foundation chair co-chair Ruth Heyd hosted the first ever GGF Women’s Party.

In a dynamic speech, Dawn described the current need for funding for the lesbian community and proclaimed, “Women can make a difference; powerful women make change.”

In a one-night, extraordinary display of generosity, women donated more than $20,000 to the Guilford Green Foundation.

These givers truly understood the potential of women and the impact they can make when acting together.

And for Dawn, a “powerful woman”, she certainly makes change.

It was reported in 2005 that less than 0.01 percent of overall foundation giving goes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Since its inception in 1996, the Guilford Green Foundation has provided more than $440,000 to various nonprofit agencies in Guilford, Alamance and Davidson counties.

To learn more, visit www.ggfnc.org.

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