Earlier this year, around 60 women, checks in hand, gathered at the Scottsdale Hilton Resort & Villas.
For one hour, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., three women addressed the room, speaking about the charity of their choosing – a charity they hope will be on the receiving end of a multi-thousand-dollar check.
That night, the group – 100+ Women Who Care (WWC) Valley of the Sun – chose Phoenix-based nonprofit Gabriel’s Angels.
And on March 7, WWC Valley of the Sun Chief Community Builder Kim Tarnopolski of Ahwatukee and co-founder Jacqueline Destremps presented a check to Gabriel’s Angels for $9,050.
“Gabriel’s Angels is very delighted and thankful to be chosen as recipient of the February contributions from the Scottsdale 100+ Women Who Care group,” said Nan Ater, board chair of Gabriel’s Angels executive committee. “It is wonderful to share our mission of inspiring confidence, compassion and best behaviors in at-risk children through pet therapy.”
Ater said the nonprofit plans to use the money to support its 190 Pet Therapy teams.
“These Pet Therapy teams deliver healing pet therapy to Arizona’s at-risk children, nurturing their emotional development and enhancing the quality of the lives forever at over 125 child serving agencies, and visit 15,200 children annually,” she said.
WWC has groups around the US, Canada and worldwide; Two WWC chapters are located in the Valley: WWC Phoenix and WWC Valley of the Sun.
Tarnopolski makes it clear, though, that WWC Valley of the Sun isn’t a charity. Nor is it a nonprofit.
“We, simply, are a philanthropic group of women,” Tarnopolski said. “Our members write their checks directly to the charity.”
Tarnopolski formed the Valley of the Sun WWC chapter five years ago, in 2015, after attending one of the WWC Phoenix chapters’ giving circles.
“I thought, you know what, I’m going to do this on my own,” she said. “I called up some friends and said, ‘Hey, I think I’ve found our next thing.’”
Tarnopolski was looking for a new venture. She had recently retired as an HR executive and consultant for over 18 years, and her daughter was going into middle school.
“I decided it was time to take a hiatus and just be really present for [my daughter],” she said. “And I’ve always been involved with the charitable world and sat on boards.”
And so, WWC Valley of the Sun was formed.
Tarnopolski calls herself the “engine behind the scenes.”
“I am the only one of four on our executive team. I’m the only one in that executive team who is not working full-time,” she said.
WWC Valley of the Sun has three groups: one in Scottsdale, one in Ahwatukee and an East Valley branch.
The Ahwatukee branch will meet 5:30-7:30 p.m. April 16 at Foothills Golf Club, 2201 E. Clubhouse Drive, Ahwatukee. Guests are welcome and more information is at 100WWCValleyOfTheSun.org.
As the name of the group suggests, each group has more than 100 women, with the exception of East Valley, which was recently formed in 2018 but continues to grow.
The Ahwatukee group has 170 members, Scottsdale has 115 and East Valley has 85.
Tarnopolski describes the Valley of the Sun chapter’s women as 35 to 70 years of age, both retirees and working women.
“We do have 10 to 15 percent of the group that are around 30 [years old],” she adds.
But the common denominator is all the women have a big heart and want to give back.
“Yes, it’s about giving and supporting a charity, but it’s also about just learning about charities,” Tarnopolski said. “That’s the great thing about this.”
Many women attend the Valley of the Sun chapter giving circles to seek potential business partners.
“Paula Bommarito, the executive director for JDRF, she comes because she’s looking for other organizations that could potentially partner together that they have a dual mission in helping each other,” Tarnopolski said.
She continued, “So I think that the charities that are doing a really good job and the community are the ones that realize that when you come together collaboratively and you help each other and you support each other, there’s more benefit than to be competitors.”
During the giving circles, three nominated and approved charities are randomly drawn. The WWC members who nominated the charities then make an informal presentation, stating why they believe the charity is deserving of the members’ vote and check.
After a Q&A, anonymous ballets are then cast, and the charity with the most votes receives the members’ donations.
Each member writes a $100 check made directly to the charity, no exceptions. Those who are not in attendance at the giving circle can send a blank check to the chapter or donate directly to the charity via their website or other preferred method.
It’s not necessarily $100 per person, either.
The Valley of the Sun chapter allows teams, so the $100 can be split two, three, four different ways, depending on the size of the team.
“In Ahwatukee, for example, our quarterly donation tends to be around $11,000 or $11,500, but we have 170 members, so we have a lot of teams,” Tarnopolski explained.
Some chapters do not allow teams, but Tarnopolski said she wanted the Valley of the Sun chapter to be as accessible as possible.
The final step of the quarterly giving circle is the executive committee collects all of the checks and gives the money to the charity within one month of the giving circle.
In total, WWC Valley of the Sun has raised and donated $375,325 to 46 local charities.
Family Promise of Greater Phoenix Director of Philanthropy Susan Kavanaugh said the group’s donations have supported her nonprofit’s social work team, which in 2018 served 129 adults and 237 children.
“Family Promise is so grateful for the compassionate hearts of Kim [Tarnopolski], Jenn [Kaye], Stephanie [Millner] and Jacqueline [Destremps], whose collective desire is to bring awareness of all the great organizations and the impact they are having in our community,” Kavanaugh said. “100 Women Who Care brings together a diverse group of women who all want to make a difference.”
Tarnopolski said the group welcomes new members.
“We’re always looking for opportunities,” Tarnopolski added, “whether it’s foundations here in the Valley who would be interested in what we’re doing and we want to do some matching donations with us.”
Nominated charities are vetted by the executive committee, which includes Tarnopolski. Two requirements are charities must have been a 501(c)(3) for at least three years, and they must be actively implementing their mission in the community.
“We’d go through and make sure they’re in good standing and that they’re a business, not a hobby, because there’s a lot of charities out there that people start just because they like the cause, but they’re not really actively working the charity.”
Once the committee has approved the charities, they go on the approved list.
This vetting process is unique to WWC Valley of the Sun.
“One of the things that [WWC Phoenix doesn’t] do is vet their charities,” Tarnopolski said. “The women can literally just show up, put a charity in the hat, and it can be presented. And for me, I thought, if I’m going to stand at the front of the room and ask somebody to give money to an organization, I need to know that it’s viable and credible.”
Tarnopolski said she is proudest of expanding the Valley of the Sun chapter and continuing to grow its influence.
“We’re continuing to, every quarter, touch more and more charities,” she said. “We’re bringing a concept to women that otherwise really isn’t there.”