For me, Hestia began with a phone call in the fall of 1999. Susan Priem was on the line
with the question, "Would you be interested in coming over for coffee and brainstorming
the idea of a women's giving circle?
And so things began innocently enough. Little did I realize that within a relatively few years the giving circle would become an important player in greater Boston's out-of- school arena. Little did I fathom that the circle would one day be granting in excess of $300,000.00 a year to worthy programs.
Big things come from just such beginnings. That is one of the important lessons I've learned from being a member of Hestia. Early on I observed Susan's courage at putting an idea out to a group of friends and her confidence to suggest that each friend bring one or two more women into the circle.
Today the Hestia experience is important to me in many ways. For starters, even though we've grown to over 50 women, there is a sense of friendship at Hestia gatherings. The organization does not take this component lightly and the first half hour of each monthly gathering is for coffee and catching up on personal news. (Then serious, information- laden meetings follow.) Every fall a round of luncheons is scheduled in members' homes and in these intimate settings, we deepen our relationships. We travel as four-woman teams to site visits and bond over those experiences.
Secondly, I have gotten to know my city of Boston far better because of Hestia. Our grant partners are located in every corner of the city - in schools and community centers and churches that I might never have known about were it not for the site visit opportunities. And it is not just the locales I would have missed; it is the inspiring men and women who run these non-profit programs and organizations.
Thirdly is the experience of learning how to effectively leverage charitable dollars. Hestia's grant making has become increasingly more professional. That doesn't mean we bring in professional experts to help us, that means that we have become experts ourselves. We've refined our request for proposals and our site visit techniques. We have become more astute about the financials of organizations and much more knowledgeable regarding what constitutes successful after school programming. Our grants committee is composed of eight members with four rotating off each year, leaving the continuity of four Hestians with previous experience.
Thankfully Susan included me in that 1999 phone call and fortunately I blithely thought the idea sounded like "fun." It has been so, so much more.
Things I love about being in Hestia - meeting so many smart, motivated, committed women who really care about Boston and families who live in the inner city, having the feeling that our support of these organizations really does make a difference and going to organizations in dorchester, roxbury etc that are feeling such an urgent need and meeting participants and the wonderful people who work in these organizations who know that what they do makes a huge difference.