While the NFL was having its final draft day at AT&T Stadium, a group of pioneering women were making their own news by launching The Village Giving Circle at attorney Shonn Brown’s home on the afternoon of Sunday, April 29. The presentation would be made by founding Giving Circle officers Diane Reeves, Vera Ingram, Shawn Wills, Frances Cudjoe-Waters, Anika Cail, Lisa Montgomery, Christa Brown Sanford and Giving Circle Co-chair Shonn, sans Cheryl Alston, who wasn’t able to make it.
Due to the large turnout of guests, it was decided to hold the presentation on Shonn’s backyard terrace. Providing a cool element to the afternoon heat was Amy Hampton‘s Sociologie “Blushing Rose” that got its start at a girls’ get-together back in 2010.
But on this day, the gathering was all about hearing the new group’s officers describe their mission. That mission was simple: to rally African-American female leaders to utilize their financial and personal influence to benefit programs for local African-American women, men, and children. The need was great, the attendees were told, since less than 3 percent of all philanthropic dollars are currently invested in African-American communities.
The Village Giving Circle, which had been in the works since 2017, will become the third giving circle hosted at the Dallas Women’s Foundation and will operate there as a donor-advised fund. According to Shonn’s co-chair, Lisa, the group’s members will “seek to elevate awareness of issues, initiatives, and efforts that affect or support African-Americans living and working in North Texas.”
Said Shonn: “We are thrilled to be the mother ship of this group of amazing women.” Added Frances: “This is a chance for us to build a new legacy for our community. … If we don’t care about our community, who will?”
The “ask” was also simple: a donation of $2,500 would allow the women to be part of the founding group and a decision-maker in how the funds would be distributed. Grant-making would begin by year’s end, attendees were told, and a “retreat” by the founders would shortly be held to discuss and decide which groups would be helped. While the beneficiary organizations won’t have to be African-American groups per se, the groups will have to positively impact the area’s African-American community.
At this point in the program, the fundraising goal had been $50,000. But, since they’d already hit the $42,000 mark, Shonn said, she’d optimistically decided to up the day’s goal to $60,000. Turns out, her optimism was well-founded. When all was said and done, in fact, the April 29 reception raised more than $106,000 from more than 40 founding members (Cheryl Alston, Cheryl Benson, Vicki D. Blanton, Shonn Brown, Veree Hawkins Brown, Annika Cail, Tonika Clayton, Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Frances Cudjoe-Waters, Janiece Evans-Page, Arlene Ford, Tangee Gibson, Kesha Harris Henderson, Lisa Winston Hicks, Hattie Hill, Debra Hunter Johnson, Pamela Y. Hunter, Vera Ingram, Donna James-Harvey, Deandra Jones, Jill Louis, Whitney Lewis, Sonja McGill, Leticia McGowan, Lisa Montgomery, Tracey Nash-Huntley, Kristi Nelson, Abi Perpall, Sandra Phillips, Gayle Placide, Monica McCoy Purdy, Diane H. Reeves, Christa Brown Sanford, Shanon Schwimmer, Julia A. Simon, Kristi Stepteau, Neisha Strambler-Butler, Gail Warrior Suchy, Annette J. Watkins, Wendy Wilkerson, Ena Williams-Koschel, Shawn Wills and Pamela Wills-Ward).
“By the end of the year, I think we’re going to blow this community away by what we can do,” Shonn summed up. That may turn out to be an understatement.