The Women Helping Women Fund luncheon was held today, an annual event that has grown to spectacular proportions, with 1,600 women and men contributing $125 each (and more) to help fund 20 community programs for women and children.
The speaker, Paralympic medal winner and author Bonnie St. John was terrific, the lunch menu an upscale BLT was creative and tasty and I sat with a table of remarkable women, including table chair Jamie Tobias Neely, writer and EWU teacher of journalism.
But I felt a tinge of sadness after I read the page with the names of the luncheon founders — Mari Clack, Marcy Drummond, Vicki McNeill, Shirley Rector, Janet Skaden and Vivian WInston. All but Mari and Marcy have died.
I wrote the first stories on this revolutionary early 1990s idea when it was unheard of for women to be asked to contribute $100 (the suggested donation in the early years.) Yet the founders didn't flinch at the asking. They knew the need was great. They asked and women opened their purses and wrote those checks.
Now these big-ask fundraisers go on all the time, though Women Helping Women luncheon is the biggest.
I thought of the day I interviewed the women about their vision, which began as a discussion in Vivian's living room. And now four of the six are dead. McNeill, former Spokane mayor, died first in 1997. The others died throughout the 2000s. Vivian made it to 97 years old.
“This is because of you” I thought silently, thanking Vicki, Shirley, Janet and Vivian, the women now gone. “Thanks for thinking so big. It worked.”
(S-R archive photo of Vivian Winston)