May 9, 2023, was one of those magical Spring evenings in Northern Michigan that convinces everyone beautiful weather is here to stay. The grounds of Treetops Resort were fresh and green against a blue-sky backdrop. Nature was conspiring to get everyone outside, which makes the fact that 170 women chose to attend this year’s 100+ Women Who Care event even more amazing!

Women trickled into the Oak Room a little before 5 pm and were greeted with smiles by a team of 100+ WWC Ambassadors. Once inside, attendees could visit a cash bar, indulge in a chair massage or paraffin wax dip, and learn about the twenty local nonprofit organizations nominated for the evening’s grant. In the eight-year history of this event in Otsego County, there had never been so many nonprofits represented. Otsego Community Foundation Executive Director Dana Bensinger said, “I remember those first years when we hosted this event, and there were six nonprofits nominated. To see twenty is amazing!”

When the event kicked off at 6 pm, the room was full and buzzing with excitement. 100+ WWC Ambassadors Mary Tomaski, Tabitha Pardo, Heather Appold, and Annette Wells addressed the crowd, keeping to the tight schedule. Kat Steinbrecher shared her story and why being this year’s Corporate Sponsor was an easy decision when Karin Beyer approached her. Kat embodies what it means to be invested in this community and be committed to improving it.

Dana Bensinger took to the stage right on schedule, as the first of four names were drawn. Brittany Hamlin of Johannesburg-Lewiston School Thunder Bay Health Center was the first name drawn. As Brittany made her way to the stage, Dana asked the crowd, “Who hadn’t heard of this organization before tonight?” Every hand in the room shot up. The Health Center has been open just over a month, and now almost 200 more people know about it and its mission.

Ashley Miller of State Trooper Outreach Partnership (S.T.O.P.) Gaylord Chapter was up next. Dana asked the same question, and most of the hands went up. The same was true for Rebecca Yunker of the Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center after her name was called. Only Alpenfrost, represented by Megan Rink and the fourth name drawn, had some name recognition with the crowd.

The diversity of the organizations, those that were chosen to speak and those who weren’t, demonstrates the breadth of needs in our backyard and the importance of local nonprofits. The fact that most of the attendees didn’t know about many of the organizations underscores why events like this matter. Organizations that weren’t chosen to speak and didn’t win still gained important exposure by being there. It is a win for everyone.

When the votes were counted, STOP walked away with the $5,000 grant, and Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center was awarded $3,500. The remaining $8,500 of the evening’s proceeds will go to the Community Fund of the Otsego Community Foundation which supports Otsego County’s future needs. 170 women gathered for 1 hour generating $17,000 for local charities!

So much was packed into one hour! One hundred and seventy women donated $100 and a little over an hour of their time to make a meaningful impact on our community. It’s amazing what we can do when we come together. When the event wrapped up at 7 pm, everyone in the room was energized and inspired. After hearing the speakers, seeing a room full of women who are committed to making their community a better place, and learning about the boots-on-the-ground nonprofits doing amazing work, it would be hard not to be inspired. Kristen Ballantyne said it best when she hugged Dana Bensinger after the event and said, “This inspired me to go do s%*t!”

Well said. Let’s go do that.

Photos courtesy of Celeste Lovely Photography, LLC.

You can learn more about the nominated nonprofits with these links:

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Big Ticket Festival/Whitestone Project

Community Mediation

Headwaters Land Conservancy

Kiwanis Club of Gaylord

Michigan Arts Access

Munson Healthcare, Otsego Memorial Hospital

Otsego County Child Welfare Alliance

Otsego County Mounted Division

Otsego County United Way

Otsego-Antrim Habitat for Humanity

PoWer! Book Bags

Room Redux of Northern Michigan

T.A.C.K.L.E. Together Against Cancer Kept Local Everyday

The Refuge of Otsego County

Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan