Raleigh woman gives back to community

Ret Boney

Michelle Keaton-Barrow
Michelle Keaton-Barrow

RALEIGH, N.C. — With children ages 15 and 17, Michelle Keaton-Barrow feels a responsibility to instill in her kids the same urge that drives her to give back.

So Keaton-Barrow, who owns Raleigh-based Keaton-Barrow Realty, regularly donates her money and time to local causes.

“I want them to know that it’s very important as a society for us all to give back for the world to be a better place,” she says of her kids. “It’s not all about receiving. You’ve got to give.”

Over the years, she has supported and volunteered with groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and Hospice, and she and her husband have taken their kids to the local food shelter to help out.

She volunteers at the clothing closet operated by Soroptimist International, a women’s service organization, helping low-income women find the clothes they need to look for jobs and gain self-esteem.

And she uses her real-estate and business skills to conduct workshops to help people learn to budget and build their credit, “so they can get to the point of being able to give back,” she says.

Then last spring, in an effort to leverage her own monetary donations for even greater impact, Keaton-Barrow joined the Women’s Network, a giving fund administered by the North Carolina Community Foundation.

Founded in 2006, the 125 members of the network each agree to contribute $100 a month for five years to support local programs that address local needs.

“I think women make good decisions,” says Keaton-Barrow. “And I think it’s great that women who don’t have huge sums of money are still contributing.”

Network members work together to develop a focus for their grantmaking, present and discuss potential recipients, review grant applications and determine which groups will receive funding.

In 2008, the network awarded two grants totaling $104,000.

Interact of Wake County, a shelter and support organization for women and children suffering domestic violence or sexual assault, received $58,000 to launch and maintain a support line for women in crisis.

And SAFEchild, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that works to prevent child abuse through family education, received $46,000 for its Well Baby program, a mentoring program designed to help new parents care for their infants.

Keaton-Barrow hopes to put her own stamp on the Women’s Network by encouraging support for smaller nonprofits.

“A lot of nonprofits have very small operating budgets of $15,000 to $20,000, but they do $200,000 worth of work,” she says. “Some of the other big nonprofits are constantly going to get checks. I want to fight for the smaller nonprofits.”

So for the next five years, Keaton-Barrow will explore a new way of supporting her community while experiencing the collective power of women and giving.

“It’s knowing that someone else has a better day because you’ve contributed somehow,” she says of her desire to give back. “It’s irrelevant whether they know you did it or not.”

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