100 to 1: New women's group makes initial impact on Cape Elizabeth nonprofit

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CAPE ELIZABETH — When Deb Bergeron created 100 Women Who Care Southern Maine, she was hoping to bring women together and give back to local charities and nonprofits.

On Nov. 13 she accomplished both goals in one night.

Bergeron gathered 108 members for the new group and raised almost $4,600 for Simple Gifts, a Cape Elizabeth-based organization that provides assistance to people who have loved ones in the hospital.

“I knew there would be interest in the 100 Women Who Care model here, and I’m thrilled at how quickly it has caught on,” Bergeron said in a press release.  

The national 100 Women Who Care organization has 125 chapters across the country. Each group meets four times a year for one hour, donating money each time, and then choosing a local charity to receive the funds. Members of the southern Maine chapter donate $50 each time.

“When you give $50 (on your own) you don’t always know where it goes, but when it’s a group together, you can really see a difference,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron, a Falmouth resident, is a life coach and said she had been noticing many of her clients saying something was missing from their lives. When she heard about 100 Women Who Care, she said she realized it was exactly what many people were looking for.

“I put it out there cause it seemed to answer what I kept hearing about how women want to give back and connect with other women,” Bergeron said.

She said the group is perfect for people with busy lives who can’t volunteer as much as they’d like.

“It’s really simple, that’s the beauty of it,” Bergeron said. “Busy professionals don’t have a lot of time.”

At the meetings, held at the Woodfords Club in Portland, members can nominate a charity or nonprofit for funding. The groups are then put into a hat, three are selected, and the person who nominated each one has to make a five-minute pitch. The members then vote on which charity gets the money.

At the first meeting Nov. 13, 11 charities were nominated and Simple Gifts was chosen. It was nominated by its founder and president, Mary Irace. 

Irace created Simple Gifts two years ago. The group provides gas cards, grocery cards, cafeteria vouchers, and other small gifts to help families cope with a hospitalization. 

“I learned that sometimes people need something small, something simple, that will make a big difference,” Irace said in a press release. “It could be gas to get to the hospital or money for food so that they don’t have to leave the hospital.”

Irace said she is very happy about the funds from 100 Women Who Care and that it is the biggest donation her organization has ever received.

“I was pretty much in shock about the money,” she said. “It was just incredible.”

Irace said she is very thankful Bergeron started 100 Women Who Care.

“For Deb to do this, it’s incredible,” Irace said. “She just had the belief and the faith.”

The next meeting will be Feb. 12, 2015, and more information can be found at 100womenwhocaresouthernmaine.com. Bergeron said she is hoping more women come out and join the group. She called it a “win-win” for the women involved and the charities that benefit.

“It’s the simplicity of it,” Bergeron said. “It’s an empowering way to make a meaningful difference.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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Deb Bergeron, left, of Falmouth, the founder of 100 Women Who Care Southern Maine, said she was pleased the group could donate almost $4,600 to Simple Gifts, a charitable organization founded by Mary Irace of Cape Elizabeth.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.