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Photo: Calvin College
Photo by Calvin College

Last December,  Jill Bates headed to Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Mich., to have dinner with Women Who Care of Kent County, an alliance of women who create awareness of the many non-profits making a positive impact in their communities. The group comes together four times a year to fundraise for these charities.

How does it work? Each woman comes with a $100 check with the “To” line purposefully left blank. The night they meet, the names of three women in attendance are drawn out of a box. Then, the three women each give an elevator pitch for an organization near and dear to her heart. After a brief question and answer period, all the women vote for their top choice.

Bates, clinical director for Calvin College Rehabilitation Services (CCRS), was attending her first meeting. Her intention? To network. When her name was drawn, she had the whole room’s attention.

“First thing I said was, ‘I came here because we are all moms and sisters and grandmas and aunts and wives and we all know someone who needs therapy and has been denied because of exhausted insurance, and I want to tell you about something that’s near and dear to me.’”

And so she began talking about CCRS, which provides a variety of outpatient services based on an innovative model. The college’s two clinics bring together the strengths of multiple institutions and academic departments for the best possible care, integrating speech therapy, physical therapy, social work, occupational therapy and audiology.

Her remarks struck a chord with the women that night and CCRS received the most votes.

She left that evening with the commitment of more than 162 women to write $100 checks to an organization near and dear to her heart.

The next step? Bates and her colleagues are  determining the best tangible way to use the $16,200 to make an impact. So far, one idea has risen to the top: to create a center for evaluation and treatment for families in need of alternative and augmentative communication devices with a lending center of devices.