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Impact 100 East Bay is on a mission. Since 2016 it has united women in the community to each contribute $1,000 every year, which adds up to a substantial annual grant to help people in need.

“Our goal is to collectively raise funds to support unmet charity needs in Contra Costa and Alameda counties and raise awareness for deserving organizations,” President Carol Nitz explained.

This year the members chose Covenant House of California for a grant of $109,000, to fund a robust mental health program for homeless youth served by its Oakland facility, based on the success of a similar project in Los Angeles.

Nonprofit groups apply in one of five areas: education; health and wellness; family; arts and culture; and environmental, recreation and preservation.

“The lion’s share of the applicants fall into health and wellness, and family,” Nitz said.

They receive applications from 60 to 70 nonprofit groups after holding two information sessions each year, she explained. That group is narrowed down to the top 10-15, who are asked to provide additional data and financials.

“We do take it seriously,” Nitz said. “That is a lot of money to be accountable for. They all have great ideas but they have to have the capability to play that out.”

The recipients have two years to reach their goal with the $100,000 grant, and they look for applicants with ideas for programs that can be sustained.

“That’s the concept of such a big grant,” Nitz said.

Impact 100 East Bay is part of a national organization started 20 years ago in Cincinnati. The local group was founded in 2016 by Nancy Clark, who kicked it off by gathering some friends in her living room.

The East Bay chapter started with 55 members, quickly reached the 100 mark, and continues to grow. It has different levels of membership, with the basic $1,000 going toward the grants and larger amounts used for scholarships and operating expenses.

In 2017, the inaugural year, the grant award was $55,000, which went to MISSSEY, an organization that supports and advocates for youth who are victims of sex trafficking.

For the 2018 grant, the membership had almost doubled so the amount was $103,000, which went to Opportunity Junction for its Roadmap to College program. This program, in partnership with Los Medanos College, assists East Contra Costa high-risk youth, ages 18-24, in either earning AA degrees in a technical trade or transferring to a four-year college.

The 2019 grant for $108,000 was given to CASA (Count Appointed Special Advocates) for its “Mental Health Program for Foster Youth.”

“Their idea took off like lightning. They are well on the way to doing better than we thought they would,” Nitz said.

As membership increases to more than 120, the board decided, it would give a second grant for $20,000 in addition to the $100,000 impact grant.

But the club does more than award the grants. Its members also get to know the nonprofit groups and become cheerleaders for them, which leads to other avenues of helping.

“We enjoy personal knowledge of the community and feel akin to all of them,” Nitz said. “And during the pandemic, we are all a community.”

Some residents in Alameda and Contra Costa counties have a lot of need, she noted, as others enjoy great affluence.

Nitz, who lives in upper Rockridge, is retired from Chevron, which gave matching funds, and she said other members also have that through their workplaces.

“A number of my colleagues at Chevron have joined,” Nitz said. “A lot of women are using skills they’ve found elsewhere that they can apply in a whole new way.”

“It’s a great way to spread the wealth where we can,” said Danville resident Judy Lloyd, owner of Altamont Strategies, who is currently in charge of membership.

“I’ve been a member for one year. When I went to their gala last September, I was blown away by the quality of the people who had applied,” Lloyd said. “And that passion rubs off on our members.”

Impact 100 East Bay holds an event in February called “The Big Reveal,” when the membership number and grant amount are announced. A second big event takes place in early September where the membership meets the grant finalists. Then, after the membership votes, a third big gathering is the grant presentation and celebration.

“This year, the February event was face to face, but everything else has been on Zoom,” Nitz said.

Lloyd said two things especially impressed her about Impact 100 East Bay.

“When we saw a need during COVID, we gave out nine microgrants, for $500, to nine nonprofits,” she said. “It is not just about the $100,000; it is about how do we give back and about the need. We chose them from people who had applied before.”

She was also impressed by the way they dealt with the finalists.

“Before they make their presentations, we coach them,” she said. “We go through what they could improve on so when they come to us they give their best presentation.”

The grant process is complex but the goal is simple, Lloyd noted.

“Each woman gives $1,000 and gets one vote,” she said. “There is an equity to it because everyone’s vote counts the same. And everyone is thrilled with the impact.”

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