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Charitable women’s club helps local hearing-impaired children

Mark Parker



St. Petersburg's 100 Women Who Care club continues growing. The organization awarded $25,500 to local nonprofits at its Feb. 8 meeting, a new record. Photos provided.

Christy Vogel told 100 Women Who Care St. Petersburg members that winning their $10,000 grand prize would provide five children with two hearing aids, potentially saving their lives.

The philanthropically focused women’s club continues growing, and Vogel walked away with $17,500 at its Feb. 8 quarterly meeting. The money allows St. Petersburg-based Sounding Joy to ensure that 17 children whose families cannot afford hearing aids will now have the critical devices.

Vogel told attendees that addiction disorder rates double among hearing-impaired children, who are also five times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. While aids can mitigate those outcomes, she said health insurance rarely covers the up to $6,000 per ear cost.

“My two cousins who did not get their hearing aids both died from their addictions,” Vogel said. “I didn’t find out those stats until after they passed.”

Doctors diagnosed Vogel with hearing impairment at 11. She said she taught herself to read lips as her middle-class family couldn’t afford aids.

Vogel said she missed nearly half of what teachers discussed in her high school classrooms. She said it took five years to receive a two-year associate degree because she still lacked hearing aids in college.

Vogel went on to earn her bachelor’s degree and got her first set of hearing aids at 27 years old. “But I was a lucky one,” she added.

“When I started doing research for Sounding Joy, I thought it would be nice to give kids hearing aids so they can hear – so they can do better in school,” Vogel explained. “When I found out about those statistics, I said, ‘We’ve got to do this right here, right now.’

“What started out as helping kids to hear better turned into a mission to save the lives of children.”

Vogel launched the local nonprofit in 2021 and began providing hearing aids in 2023. She said Sounding Joy can purchase the devices for roughly $1,000 through business partnerships.

Vogel noted that 90% of the children she serves need two hearing aids. She urged attendees to help her save lives.

From left: Christina Noordstar, co-founder of 100 Women Who Care; Christy Vogel, founder of Sounding Joy; Lauren Brigman, co-founder of 100 Women Who Care; and Scott Craver, director at Sounding Joy.

St. Petersburg’s 100 Women Who Care is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to uplifting area nonprofits. A search committee selects three from 20 nominees, and members contribute $100 at quarterly meetings.

The goal is to raise $10,000, and corporate donors provide a 50% match. However, the community has increasingly contributed to the club’s efforts.

Co-founders Christina Noordstar and Lauren Brigman awarded participants at least $18,000 throughout 2023. Their organization provided $25,500, a new record, at its first meeting of 2024.

The $17,500 grand prize will impact local students. Vogel said Sounding Joy partners with what she calls “audiologist angels” who work with the Pinellas and Hillsborough County school districts.

The audiologists refer children who cannot afford but can benefit from hearing aids to Sounding Joy. Vogel noted that Pinellas County Schools “does a much better job” of streamlining the process by fitting the kids for the devices.

Vogel told attendees the partners ensured a student about to graduate received hearing aids within 48 hours. “Had she graduated, the audiologist could no longer help her,” she said.

Vogel explained that Sounding Joy’s board consists of area entrepreneurs. She said they wanted to deliberately build the nonprofit to eventually scale it and offer services and products in other counties.

Sounding Joy helped 15 children hear in 2023. Vogel said it has the funding needed to assist 42 in 2024, not including Thursday night’s winnings.

“The impact you create in the community in 60 minutes is just unheard of,” Vogel told attendees. “These dollars are going to create a major impact in the lives of these children.”

The other winners

The Parc Center for Disabilities received $6,500 for second place due to a member’s surprise $5,000 gift after the presentations.

Michelle Detweiler, CEO of Parc, said the 71-year-old organization sought funding to hire an additional art teacher. That is one of the myriad programs offered to the 94 people with developmental disabilities who live at the expansive facility in St. Petersburg. The nonprofit serves over 500 more children and adults with developmental disabilities throughout Pinellas County.

Saving Our Seniors received $1,500 for third place. Nearly 30% of Tampa Bay’s elderly population lives below the poverty line, and the nonprofit provides discounted medical equipment, supplies and medication throughout the region.

Kelli Casto launched Pinellas Park-based Saving Our Seniors in 2016. The organization served 14,000 people in January. She said the funding would help establish a farmer’s market program to feed elderly residents, who typically live on a $900 monthly budget.




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