An article in the newspaper piqued Palma Aikins interest. A group of women were meeting quarterly in Carol Stream with the goal of helping out area nonprofits. She decided to attend a meeting.
After going to a few meetings of 100+ Women Who Care, Aikins realized getting to Carol Stream wasn’t always possible. Without even knowing what she was really doing, she e-mailed the coordinator.
“As I was writing, I said, ‘I think I will start a chapter in Naperville,’” she said.
She heard back right away from the other coordinator who encouraged her to create a local chapter. In 2009, she started a Naperville chapter of 100+ Women Who Care.
Initially, she contacted everyone she knew and for the first meeting in February 2009, she said 29 women attended. Though the group is not yet at its goal of 100 members, it is making a difference.
The women who join the group commit to donating $100 four times a year. At the meetings, which last about an hour, each woman in attendance is welcome to put the name of a local nonprofit into the hat. Three nonprofit names are chosen, giving the women who support those nonprofits an opportunity to get up and make the case for donating to their chosen organization. After the presentations, the women vote and pick one.
“Sometimes we find these charities, these little gems where the money makes a huge impact,” Aikins said. “That is really a game changer. I like it when we rock their world.”
At the most recent meeting 82 women attended, she said. Once all of the checks are collected $8,200 will be sent to a Wheaton nonprofit Donka Inc., an organization that provides technical tools to those with special needs, helping them communicate and navigate through life, she said.
The local chapter has made donations totaling $72,500 since it started in 2009, Aikins said.
“People don’t think Naperville people need help,” she said. “The economic situation has opened eyes.”
The Naperville chapter of 100+ Women Who Care has lost some members as a result of the challenging economy, but even so, other women have joined and kept the local group growing, Aikins said.
“The amazing thing about Naperville, they are generous to a fault, even though things were scary,” she said. “It didn’t get as bad as I feared, from my perspective.”
Aikins, 56, a wife and mother who has worked as a software consultant for most of her career, said she’s not sure where her desire to give back comes from, adding, “once your eyes are open … I just got sucked in and there is always more to do. It leaves you with some sleepless nights.”
After the donations are made, she said she enjoys seeing where the money is going and learning how the groups benefit from the donations. The key factor is that the women have a greater impact locally when they contribute together rather than independently, she said.
Her participation with 100+ Women Who Care is only one of the ways Aikins helps out in the community. She volunteers at Naperville CARES, where she helps distribute funds for those in need. Aikins started a Saint Vincent DePaul Society chapter at her church, , which has mushroomed into a huge enterprise because of the needs in the community, Aikins said. And, she also volunteers with her dog through .
“I just like to help as much as possible,” Aikins said. “I have had a good life.”