A beautiful Fall day greeted members and guests for the Women United Annual Human Services Grant Award luncheon at Farmington Country Club on October 4, 2011. Robin Amato, this year’s Co-Chair, set the tone when she said “It takes a special quality for someone to ‘live’ philanthropy. As we get busier and busier it’s nice to pause to celebrate our combined success.” The room was filled with women who “live their philanthropy” through their collective giving and were ready to celebrate.

Guest speaker Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World (co-authored with Dr. Miriam Nelson) and pictured here, was introduced by Women United’s other Co-Chair, Sue Friedman. Ackerman made the impulsive move to Charlottesville in 1991. Both she and her husband are writers and the lure of the University of Virginia library and academical village, as well as the close proximity to Washington D.C., were hard to resist.

Ackerman believes a healthy lifestyle begins at home. You change the individual and the small ripples move through the community and spread beyond. “Women really know how to use social networking effectively. They know how to listen, how to nurture, and how to lean on people to help effect positive change.” Those words should sound familiar to members of Women United.

The ripples that started with the founding members of Women United have spread to enable us to award two $20,000 grants this year. Carol Johnston, Co-Chair of the Grant Committee, introduced Ruth Stone, Executive Director of Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Harriet Kuhn, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as grant recipients for 2011. Piedmont CASA provides specially trained volunteers to advocate for neglected and abused children. The IRC will use Women United grant money to establish a Refugee Craft Cooperative, working with talented women refugees to produce and sell their handiwork locally.

Jennifer Ackerman said “Women are tremendous catalysts for change.” We know. Through the collective giving of Women United, our members are making positive changes and “living philanthropy.”