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The magic of gift giving

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | June 21, 2021 1:07 AM

When Deborah Mitchell heard the Women’s Gift Alliance chose the Music Conservatory of Coeur d'Alene for a $25,000 award, she couldn’t believe it. 

“I was flabbergasted when I got the call,” Mitchell said. “We are so lucky to be loved this much by this community."

The Music Conservatory was one of five grant recipients celebrated Thursday at the Women’s Gift Alliance annual 2021 award ceremony. A nonprofit, the WGA uses collective giving to educate women to become more philanthropically aware and involved with the community. 

Each year, the membership organization works with local initiatives to address community problems, enrich culture, foster partnerships and gain insight into new ideas.

Since WGA’s first giving year in 2005, the group has awarded over $1 million to Kootenai County organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Kootenai County, Camp Journey, the Community Library Network Foundation and Family Promise of North Idaho. 

“It’s a real privilege to welcome you all to one of our best days,” WGA President Jovanna Tanzey said. “This is the culmination of a huge amount of work … and today is our celebration of that.” 

This year, grant committee co-chair Sarah Swanby said 23 organizations submitted applications to receive a fraction of the over $85,000 the WGA members collected for 2021 gift-giving. 

“There is a magic behind the idea that between the grant committee, the board and our members who make this happen, we are giving away $85,000 today,” Swanby said. “We love the process, and that’s part of our mission — sharing and learning about philanthropy and our members being able to study these projects.”

Each WGA member contributes between $500 and $1,050 into a collective giving fund, $250 into an endowment fund, $250 as an individual gift designation, and $50 for administration. This year, based on the votes of 109 members, three organizations — the Music Conservatory, CDAIDE, and Office Moms & Dads — each received $25,000 for their grant proposals. Two others, Birds of Prey Northwest and Onsite for Seniors, were awarded $5,000 each.  

For CDAIDE, the money will go toward a new scholarship to enable the children of hospitality workers to have access to programs in the arts, sports, STEM, academics, camp and recreation that their parents cannot afford. Partners with the scholarship program include the Kroc Center, Gizmo, sports leagues, theaters and several regional summer camps.

“As a mom, I know there is no better way to touch my heart than to be able to empower (hospitality workers) to say yes to their kids. I also know how much it hurts when you have to say no to your kids,” said Cory English, CDAIDE secretary. “It’s a joy to me personally to say that parents can say yes, that their kids can grow up and do what they are interested in.”

The $5,000 WGA grant received by Birds of Prey Northwest will help finance live presentations, teaching materials, and 3D plans for STEM programs throughout Kootenai County. Idaho STEM Action Center and BOPNW developed the classroom curriculum based on BOPNW executive director Janie Veltkamp’s award-winning book “Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle.” 

“We take birds into classrooms to teach students the importance of conservation and how these birds once fell to less than 20 breeding pairs in our country because of our use of the pesticide DDT,” Veltkamp said. “Today, they are a reminder of a conservation success story with over 2,000 breeding pairs in the U.S.”

Other WGA grants will go toward these programs:

Music Conservatory of Coeur d’Alene grant dollars will help buy instruments and equipment for group and individual music lessons. Items still needed by the nonprofit are seven pianos, a keyboard lab, headphones with microphones and recording equipment.

Office Moms & Dads, a nonprofit, helps children who are removed from the home by connecting them with caring adults to interact with while social workers focus on proper placement. Funds will acquire new volunteers, provide an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare sensory room and pay for an initial supply of comforts and needs for children entering foster care.

Onsite for Seniors, Inc. funding will aid in creating and implementing a virtual Music & Motion Therapy Program that resonates with the aging and safely increases physical activity and mobility. WGA funding will specifically support costs for consultation with music and physical therapists, instruments and equipment.