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Local giving circle raises record donation

Ashley Morales



At its May 2 meeting, 100 Women Who Care awarded a total of $28,300 to three local nonprofits, setting a new record for the organization. Photos provided.

A charitable women’s organization in St. Petersburg continues to grow, breaking its previous record for attendance and money raised to support local nonprofits.

100 Women Who Care is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to supporting area charities. Nonprofits apply to present at the organization’s quarterly meetings, and a search committee selects three nominees. Members each contribute $100 with a goal of raising $10,000. However, corporate donors and the community have increasingly contributed to the club’s efforts.

At its May 2 meeting, 100 Women Who Care awarded a total of $28,300 to three local nonprofits, setting a new record at its second gathering of 2024. $18,300 was raised by the organization’s members and $10,000 was a matching donation from two private foundations.

100 Women Who Care co-founder Christina Noordstar told the Catalyst about 125 women attended the meeting, filling every seat in the room.

“We are at about $331,000 that we have given to local nonprofits in total since we started in 2020,” said Noordstar. “[Co-founder] Lauren [Brigman] and I are amazed because it’s all word of mouth. Women talk about their experience and then they come back and they bring a friend. We have no marketing budget, it’s just truly organically growing. It’s incredible.”

The top recipient was Florida’s Unique Education Learning Support (FUELS), which received $18,300. Co-founder and executive director Melissa Ley, a former teacher with Pinellas County Schools, said the nonprofit supports teachers in Title 1 schools by donating items that are not provided by the school district.

“We were founded on the idea that no teacher should have to dip into their own pocket to meet the needs of the students in their classrooms,” Ley said. “Florida just went from 49th in the nation to 50th in the nation for teacher pay, so we’re already not paying our teachers very well, and teachers historically spend money on providing things for their classrooms. Also, there’s a large population of kids in Title 1 schools on free or reduced lunch, so if you’re teaching at that school, then those needs are going to be bigger.”

In addition to education essentials like classroom supplies, FUELS provides teachers with sensory support materials for students in the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program and what Ley calls “non-education essentials,” like snacks and hygiene products. The purpose is to help students whose families may be struggling financially, covering their basic needs so they can come to school focused and ready to learn.

“We have started creating care closets by partnering with a few schools, a place that any student can go for any reason without embarrassment,” Ley said. “Our whole goal is to make sure that teachers don’t feel like they have to take out of their own personal pockets to make sure that their kids’ needs are met.”

The grant from 100 Women Who Care will help FUELS purchase and donate classroom supplies for teachers and care closets in Pinellas County. It will also help FUELS provide scholarships for 150 teachers to attend training from Inclusiveology, equipping teachers with the tools and resources they need to educate children with autism and other neuro-diversities.

Ley said she was “speechless” when FUELS won the top award from 100 Women Who Care.

“Since our inception in 2022, we’ve donated $25,000, which supported 49 teachers and 4,600 students. So yeah, $18,000 is going to be huge,” Ley said. “It really took me a minute to absorb it. I was very overwhelmed and shocked because there are so many amazing charities out there doing wonderful things for people in the community. So I was really blown away by the support.”

Two other organizations also won smaller grants at the recent 100 Women Who Care meeting, including Hero to a Child, a nonprofit that supports youth in the child welfare system in Pinellas and Pasco Counties.

Arts Conservatory for Teens, a nonprofit that empowers teens through arts programming, received $5,000, including a $2,500 match announced after the meeting. Noordstar said this will fund a full scholarship for one student in the ACT program.

Hero To A Child, which supports youth in the child welfare system in Pinellas and Pasco Counties, also received $5,000, including a $2,500 match, to help purchase necessities for 38 foster children.

Noordstar said, in addition to winning grant funding and bringing awareness to their organization’s mission, nonprofit leaders who present at 100 Women Who Care meetings often develop new partnership opportunities and cultivate relationships with other potential donors or volunteers.

“I like to call it the branches that grow from the organization,” Noordstar explained. “People continually decide they want to be involved in a greater capacity than just giving $100, so we’ve had many, many members that join as board members of organizations that they meet and continue partnerships or sponsorships for events.”

Noordstar said they’ve also seen an influx of teen members getting involved and volunteering with the nonprofits that the group spotlights. She encourages new members to join and participate in the next meeting Sept. 5. Nonprofits can begin applying to present at the next 100 Women Who Care meeting in July.


Related reading: An offshoot of St. Petersburg’s 100 Women Who Care – 100 Good Guys – launched at the end of 2023. The organization is actively recruiting new members for its next meeting, May 14 at Bayboro Brewing. For more information about 100 Good Guys, visit their website here.


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