- Valerie Sebestyen / provided
- Jilian Larimore, Impact Oklahoma executive director, said the organization’s grants remove the burden of funding for local nonprofits.
Impact Oklahoma annual meeting
Will Rogers Theatre
4322 N. Western Ave.
Impact Oklahoma has given more than 40 grants in 13 years, and the membership is now preparing to choose this year’s beneficiaries. The organization, a network of women who aim to make the “community stronger and better for everyone,” pools membership fees and donations to create a sizable grant fund.
“I don’t have the ability to give a nonprofit that I care about $100,000 every year. ... But I can come up with $1,000 a year, and I have 99 friends,” said Jilian Larimore, Impact Oklahoma executive director. “When we can aggregate those together into $100,000 gifts that make entire programs possible, we’re moving women from just being a donor to a program into being a philanthropist.”
Grant processThe process begins each fall and culminates at the group’s annual meeting in April. While nonprofits prepare their grant application, the organization actively recruits women who contribute $1,000 as a membership fee to the grant pool.
“Anyone that has their dollars in the pool, when the application process starts, can volunteer to be a part of one of five focus area committees,” Larimore said. “Those focus areas are community, culture, education, health and wellness, and healthy families.”
Nonprofit applications are split into each of those focus areas, and women on each committee narrow down the applicants to three finalists. Committees then visit the finalists and declare one finalist in each category.
“Those five finalists will come in front of our entire membership and guests at [our annual meeting], and anybody that’s interested in our work or wants to see the process is welcome to join us at the event,” she said. “They’ll come together April 25 at the Will Rogers Theatre, where they will have a portion of the evening to present materials.”
Every woman with dollars in the grant pool votes on the project they think should receive the grant. The number of $100,000 grants given out each year depends on the grant pool, Larimore said, but since all funds are allocated, residual dollars are awarded as smaller grants. This year, at least two $100,000 grants will be awarded.
“These grants are rocks that are thrown in the middle of a pond,” Larimore said. “Yes, the rock hits the water and there is the initial splash, but we continue to see those ripples in in all kinds of ways. … We just feel like all five [finalists] are projects that just mean so much more than where the money is spent. Many of them, if not all of them, represent coalitions between nonprofits where we really are acting as a safety net; we really are providing support to the communities.”
Central Oklahoma Humane Society, in partnership with Palomar, would use grant money to fund its animal advocacy program to address domestic violence and animal welfare at the same time. A person fleeing domestic violence would receive help from Palomar while their pet is taken care of by OK Humane. Funds would help build “a safe kenneling, transportation and fostering solution for the animals coming into Palomar.”
“The grant from Impact Oklahoma would truly create an entirely different way in which the city of Oklahoma City and animal welfare handle animals from domestic violence situations,” said president and CEO Dana McCrory. “OK Humane is the first animal welfare nonprofit in the nation to have an animal advocate housed at a family justice center. ... What we’re trying to do is give the victim the opportunity to seek safety for themselves by promising them we will take care of their animals. The outcome is selected by the victim.”
OKC Metro Alliance would use funds to improve Women’s Firstep, a sober living recovery program that houses up to 56 women at a time. Connie Schlitter, the organization’s executive director, said the grant would help it expand its kitchen and provide more opportunities for the people it serves. The organization is in talks to partner with Oklahoma State University to collaborate and develop products that could be produced and sold out of its future kitchen.
“[Women’s Firstep] was founded 30 years ago in just a home — a big home but really a very small kitchen, and that’s still what we have today for 56 women; it’s this tiny kitchen that’ll seat maybe 16 people at one time,” she said. “We’re working with a foundation to build us a new kitchen, and we’ve asked Impact to fund the equipment so we can have a commercial kitchen, dining area and seating for 64. But also where we can have a place where we could start businesses out of the kitchen.”
Putnam City Schools Foundation would complete the creation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) labs in every district middle and elementary school. Up to 84 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, so the foundation aims to expose them to enhanced educational opportunities.
“We are asking for a grant that will enable us to bridge a gap that we have between the elementary schools, which do have some STEM labs. We want to finish those out and build labs in each of the middle schools so that they’re ready for the classes that are available for them in high school,” said Jennifer Seal, president of the foundation. “Putnam City is an amazing district. A lot of our children come from limited means. Being able to provide them the exposure to careers to ideas and concepts that they had never considered before will allow them to succeed academically and socially and really be prepared for the 21st century.”
Sooner Theatre is asking Impact to “Light the Way” by helping it buy lighting and sound equipment, which it currently rents for up to $50,000 a year. With a 20-year lifespan, the equipment could save the theater a million dollars, which it plans to use to improve its programming, offer more classes and provide more opportunities for people who do not receive them. It has classes for children with Down syndrome, said Nancy Coggins, the theater’s spokesperson and development director, but would also like to offer specialized classes for those who are hearing impaired, sensory-sensitive or physically challenged.
“Currently, we offer about 55 different school year classes and summer camps for kids ages 3 all the way through high school,” she said. “We want to expand our offerings for special needs kids. … We want to make sure that we are offering those things so that those kids have an opportunity to experience the arts just like any other kid because they want to be just like any other kid.”
Variety Care would expand its Healthy Expectations program, which provides health services to pregnant women until their child turns 5. The program has been successful at its Britton Health Center, said Carol Martin, Variety Care chief operating officer, and now officials want to expand it to Straka Family Center, 1025 Straka Terrace. Money would cover startup costs and help pay the salary of its Healthy Expectations coordinator, who would be on call 24/7.
“It’s a combination of centering pregnancy and healthy steps. Centering pregnancy is kind of a group pregnancy concept where women come in as a group and they meet as a group, and then they go and get their individual assessment, but they’re with this group throughout their entire pregnancy,” she said. “Healthy Steps is a child-readiness program, so making sure they’re immunized, making sure that they’re reading-ready, making sure that they’re hitting all of the well-child checks and the developmental areas are where they need to be.”
Grant finalists• Central Oklahoma Humane Society
• OKC Metro Alliance
• Putnam City Schools Foundation
• Sooner Theatre
• Variety Care