Women who win
Margaret Thatcher once said, “if you want something done, ask a woman.”
The women’s auxiliary of the Capital City Corps in Harrisburg, Pa., known as “WIN Women INvolved,” has been getting things done for the corps and its programs for the last eight years. Kathy Anderson–Martin, the director of resource development for the corps, said this is “not your grandmother’s auxiliary” and features many of the community’s movers and shakers.
“They’re all professional women,” says Anderson–Martin. “They’re business owners and business leaders. They’re very involved and people that you know in the community. They also get people they know in the community to join.”
Anderson–Martin said when she started at the corps in 2010, the leadership had committed to host a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The only problem was that this was their first such meeting and they wondered what to expect. The staff brainstormed and decided to model it after a business fair. People would receive a card, which listed one of The Salvation Army’s programs. Then they had to find a solution to a problem.
“People loved it,” Anderson–Martin recalls. “Some of my friends said, ‘That was a lot of fun. What else can we do for The Salvation Army?’ I told them about our women’s auxiliary.”
The women were eager to get involved but thought the title “auxiliary” was dated. They settled on the name “WIN Women INvolved.”
Anderson–Martin said the group of about 70 high–powered women from Harrisburg hold monthly networking mixers. They also get involved in service projects and hold a signature fundraiser, “Shoe Strut,” each year to raise money for The Salvation Army.
“If you’re in business, you have to go to networking events,” Anderson–Martin said. “However, you can do that same thing while you’re doing something to help others through The Salvation Army. They get their businesses involved as well.”
Making a difference
Shoe Strut, now in its 7th year of providing thousands of shoes for needy children in Harrisburg, raised close to $100,000 last year for Salvation Army programs. Even though the event was held in September, it sold out in May.
“Shoe Strut is now the cool thing to do in Harrisburg,” Anderson–Martin said. “The event is very fun and rowdy, and they have a good time, but it’s also real. Within two weeks, we’re sending out letters telling exactly what we raised and what that will do. That’s unusual because most people don’t do that.”
The diverse women of all ages and backgrounds sat in the corps for a luncheon last year and voted to allocate the proceeds from Shoe Strut.
Jenny Gallagher Blom, director of programs and operations for the corps, said the women deliver funding for tangible resources: shoes for children, meals for the weekday breakfast program, milk and eggs for the food pantry, and sponsoring kids in the summer program and after–school activities.
“What they provide is truly priceless because they go out and tell our story,” she said. “We’re often very busy doing the work. The demand only continues to grow, and we need people to come alongside us and help. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Their enthusiasm is contagious.”
In the spring, the women created spice packets and meal kits for the corps food pantry. In November, they helped pack Thanksgiving baskets and sort food. The women hold a career fair in the summer as part of a youth enrichment program. WIN has also spun off a youth auxiliary called Salvation Army Youth Making A Change (SAYMAC), which was involved in Shoe Strut.
Anderson–Martin said when she started at The Salvation Army, the corps had trouble finding 25 people to pack Christmas boxes. Now, she has a volunteer army of 400 people and a waiting list.
A diverse group
WIN has also helped raise money for the furnishings in a new $12 million corps that will open in 2019.
“We had 200 people at the groundbreaking and a lot of the ladies were there because they’re very invested,” Anderson–Martin said. “I haven’t found anything comparable to our program in working with any Salvation Army. We get calls all the time, asking, ‘How do you do this?’ I tell everybody, ‘It’s not how did you do it, it’s who.’ You have to get very intentional with whom you get involved. You need people of influence and affluence.”
The group has attracted women like Bonnie Bellis, who leads the service projects committee. She is an executive assistant to the president of a local engineering company and puts her skills as an administrator to use in WIN.
“In order to attract the women in our community, whether they’re in the workplace or retired or they’re at home with their kids, we wanted something they would feel comfortable joining,” Bellis said. “The old view of an auxiliary may communicate to people out in the community that they may not be able to join because they would have to be a member of The Salvation Army or have some kind of credentials. By not classifying ourselves as an auxiliary, it makes it a more open and approachable group to be a part of and join.”
Bellis, a Christian, said her spiritual life is definitely behind her involvement.
“What motivates me is the fact that I’m able to be Jesus’ hands and feet to the people in the community where I work and live. I also partner with The Salvation Army, which is doing the most good every day. They have the overall resources and the knowledge and then God can plug me in where I’m needed,” she said.
When the group first started, Claudia Williams, an attorney who is now a consultant for leadership development, suggested the “Shoe Strut” idea by saying, “Why don’t we do something with shoes?” She ended up being the chairwoman of the event.
“Women have a desire to connect with other women and build professional networks, but we wanted to be meaningful and purposeful and we wanted to be of service,” she said. “This group really formed with the idea that we’re not getting together just to socialize. We’re getting together to develop each other, personally and professionally, and to do good in our community.
“We want to bring ideas to the table that are new and fresh and will attract other people who feel the same way that we do; people of all ages and all backgrounds.”
Williams, who was raised Catholic, said the group includes women of all faiths.
“There is absolutely a spiritual motivation and a high spiritual component to everything we do,” she said. “We thank God, we praise God, and we ask for God’s help and guidance. We get a lot of satisfaction and reward from doing so.
“To say there is an energy in this group is an understatement. When we’re at the Shoe Strut, you can feel the energy in the room and that people care about the services and programs The Salvation Army provides and they want to be able to help. For a lot of organizations, I don’t think it’s what you’re doing, it’s who’s doing it. Somehow the ‘who’ here is amazing and that’s what makes this so great and this organization so successful.”
Kristel Zaring, WIN’s president, saw that energy at the first meeting and was impressed by the breadth of The Salvation Army.
“I just was blown away by what they do, by the amazing staff, by their mission, and by their story,” she said. “I thought, I have to be a part of this.”
Zaring recalls how her father told her to always put something in a red kettle. After joining WIN, she learned that he had a soft spot for The Salvation Army because it had helped him during his military days.
“There is something that grabbed me and said, ‘This is where you need to be. You need to be doing the most good here.’ I think that special spirit of my dad guided me here,” Zaring said.
A former banker, Zaring now does business development for a CPA firm. She and the other founders of WIN wanted to attract like–minded women.
“We wanted to revitalize it as far as making it meaningful and networking with a purpose,” she said. “We wanted to capture a larger demographic. An auxiliary gives you a certain image of what the demographic would be.
“We wanted to ignite this group and really bring in some dynamic women, diverse women, and women of all ages. We wanted to make sure we were open about what our mission was going to be. We also wanted to offer networking with a purpose and be able to give back by doing that.”
God in the midst
“There was a reason these women came together,” Zaring said. “There was a reason that idea became a part of it and every year it just grows and grows. We know there’s a higher power that’s guiding us and blessing us by having the people in this group. I totally believe it’s a God thing.
“The women who are in this group are well–known in the community. We have a good core group that knows a lot of people. They’re connected, and that helps us drive our mission too. We all are interacting with different organizations and companies, so that helps us expand our network.”
Cindy Minnich, the community outreach and events coordinator for the corps, said the connections in the group are invaluable. For example, when a tuxedo was needed for Shoe Strut, someone in the group knew where they could get one.
“This has been an amazing network of women who are willing to donate their time and their energies and their resources and who are willing to reach their networks,” Minnich said. “We reach people who we never would have reached on our own. Just those connections in the community—I can’t put a value on that.
“It’s a beautiful thing, whether the women are employed or retired. We need all of them to really make this work.”
Minnich said the group continues to grow. “Our best advertisers for WIN are all the WIN members,” she said. “Those women all got their friends together and they’re always inviting new ones. We just grow through word of mouth, really.”
Finding a home
Major Elizabeth Griner, a longtime Salvation Army officer, called the changes the women have brought “exciting.”
“They have proven to have a heart and compassion for our community, and it’s been quite successful,” she said. “It’s taken a few years to grow, but it’s been a good change for our community.
“I think it’s breathed new life into the auxiliary. It’s given them a fresh outlook. The projects are less traditional. These women are more in touch with what’s happening in today’s world. They’re constantly looking for what’s fresh and what’s new. That brings new life and new vitality to the auxiliary as a whole.”
Zaring said she was involved in other community groups before WIN, but nothing seemed right and she felt unfulfilled. Those days are over for Zaring.
“I will do anything they ask me to do,” she said. “I feed off the energy in this group and this organization. This is by far the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done. It’s right. I know I belong here.”
by Robert Mitchell