A chance meeting while she awaited a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ taping in California prompted Sherry Lowery to seek out Loy Turner in hopes of forming a Newton County chapter with the 100 Women Who Care Alliance. Nothing short of eye-opening, the results have changed the math for a number of area nonprofits.
by Kari Apted
Question: What do you get when you multiply two friends, one mission and generous amounts of wine? Answer: 100 Women of Newton County—and $10,000.
This unusual equation is the result of Newton County residents Sherry Lowery and Loy Turner coming together in an ingenious way to help local nonprofits. Inspired by the international group 100 Women Who Care Alliance, the Newton County chapter has been together since 2018. Twice a year, group members meet in person, each with $100 in hand. The money is then pooled and the members vote on two local nonprofits with which to share the donations.
“Let’s say you have $100 set aside for charitable giving,” Lowery said. “Your $100 isn’t going to make a giant difference by itself, but $10,000? Giving collectively makes a huge difference to these charities.”
Lowery first learned about 100WWC while standing in line to watch a live taping of the hit television show “Dancing with the Stars” in California.
“My sister Judy is a DWTS fanatic. Out of the blue, she got tickets and her husband begged her to not make him go,” she said. “He flew us out to California, first class. It turns out that the tickets weren’t guaranteed admission. They were actually tickets to wait in line to maybe get in to see the show. We got there at 8 a.m. and stood there for hours in our evening clothes, right beside a six-lane highway. We were numbers nine and 10. The ladies behind us were from Arizona, and since I like to talk, we got to know them as we waited.”
A stranger Lowery met, Kim Tarnopolski, shared that she manages two Arizona chapters of 100WWC. When Lowery heard what the group was about, something clicked.
“I thought, ‘I can do that. I can do that in Newton,’” she said, “but then it took me about two years to get it started. I’d come off two boards I’d been on and thought I had some free time.”
Lowery has been an early childhood education instructor at Georgia Piedmont Technical College since 2003. She has served on the Rockdale Career Academy board, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and many other boards through the years.
“I don’t have kids, so I can be involved in a lot of things,” she said. “I like to stay super-busy; it’s what I find most fulfilling. I say that I like to put my little fingers in lots of different pots.”
When considering who would be a strong candidate to help her launch the local chapter of 100WWC, Lowery immediately thought of Turner.
“She and I would run into each other all the time at different events,” Lowery said. “We always said we needed to get together but didn’t. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know my name, but I knew that she knew everybody, so she was the first person I had to go to with my plan.”
Turner, a lifelong Newton County resident, does indeed have a vast social network. The mother of three works as the volunteer coordinator at Longleaf Hospice and has served with many local organizations through the years. Turner was eager and well-prepared to help Lowery launch a new way of giving back to their beloved community.
“It’s such a simple concept,” Turner said. “I always go back to that. How did nobody think of this before? It’s just so easy compared to what it was like working on other fundraisers in the past.”
Simplicity extends to the twice-annual meetings, which only last an hour each. Every member has the opportunity to nominate a charity before the meeting, and Lowery and Turner verify the charity’s 501c3 status with the Internal Revenue Service.
“It has to be a verifiable 501c3,” Turner said, “and we don’t do the big charities. It’s not that we have anything against them, but the little nonprofits really need us. Our donations can be budget-making for these smaller Newton County charities. It’s also good for them because they also receive exposure simply by being nominated.”
Meetings are held at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Covington. Doors open at 6 p.m. The women enjoy wine, snacks and socializing before the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. The nonprofits’ names are put into a hat, and three are randomly drawn. The women who nominated those three charities give a brief speech about their organization and why they nominated it. Then the members vote. The two charities with the most votes are named as grant recipients, and the night’s gifts are divided between them. The third charity’s name goes back into the hat as a possible grant contender at the next meeting. By 7:30 p.m., everyone is headed home. The following day, Lowery and Turner visit the chosen charities and present them with a check.
“It’s such a simple concept. I always go back to that. How did nobody think of this before? It’s just so easy compared to what it was like working on other fundraisers in the past.”Loy Turner
“They’re so appreciative,” Turner said. “It’s found money for them. It’s like someone walking up to you and giving you $5,000 out of the blue.” Lowery agrees. “They’re all really, really grateful,” she said. “When we run into people in Newton County that we’ve granted money to, you just hear the best stories.”
Teenage girls are also encouraged to join 100WWC meetings but are only asked to bring a $50 contribution. Because each vote is attached to a $100 donation, teen members’ votes count as half a vote. The Newton County chapter of 100WWC currently boasts 89 members. While the group’s current goal is to reach 100 members, Lowery and Turner have much bigger long-term plans.
“We would love to grow over 100 members,” Lowery said. “We’d also like to see someone start a 100 Men of Newton County group. The more people we have, the bigger grants we can give. Great things can happen.” Turner seconded the desire to bring in others. “We’re a giving circle—that’s our bottom line,” she said. “New members are always welcome. We really have a lot of fun. We’ve never had a bad time. We want to be the group that everyone wants to join.”
For more on the 100 Women of Newton County, visit 100WWCNewtonCounty.org. Membership is free, and applications are available on the website. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 21 at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, located at 4140 Clark Street in Covington.
100 Women of Newton County
Grant recipients include:
Special Olympics Georgia Masters Bowling
Newton County Boys and Girls Club
Covington Police Who Care
Southern Heartland Arts, Inc.
Covington First United Methodist
Church Food Pantry
Newton County Education Foundation