Members of 100+ Women Who Care SCHH gathered May 19 to present a donation check for Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine (BJVIM). Holding the check at left is Kate Mace, who nominated the charity; at right is Dennis Toney, resource development director of BJVIM.

When Andy Hoerner and Vicki Mack decided to form 100+ Sun City Women Who Care in 2017, they weren’t sure what kind of a response they would get from their friends and neighbors.

The result has been a marathon, not a sprint, to that magic 100 members.

On May 19, the group presented a check for Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine in the amount of $10,100, representing the donation of $100 per member of the Sun City Hilton Head registered group.

“That was our goal from the beginning. What I saw was we were not growing as fast as some groups could. We lost a few members who moved back home to be near their children, some people passed away. We’re mostly all retired, and I think it was a little slower for us to grow,” said Hoerner. “We worked pretty hard at that, and it’s amazing that we are finally there. I think it’s pretty cool.”

The 100+ Women Who Care is a nationwide organization that began in 2006. There are local chapters in Bluffton, Hilton Head and Beaufort, and Mack and Hoerner wanted to start one in Sun City after attending a summer meeting of the Bluffton chapter at Hampton Lake.

“When I saw all those women there and what they were doing with the money, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is exactly where I want to be.’ It’s making a huge impact on the community,” Mack said.

With that thought in mind, Hoerner, Mack and a few others set up a table at the annual Sun City Hilton Head club fair in October 2017, and promoted the group to residents checking out the many opportunities available.

“We wanted to be a registered community group, so we asked people if they wanted to be a member,” Hoerner said.

The premise of the organization is simple: No fundraising, no long meetings, and no major commitment of time. Members meet for one hour once a quarter. They may complete and submit a charity nomination form prior to each meeting. Three of the nominations are pulled from a hat and presented by the member-sponsor. Those present vote on the charity they feel warrants that quarter’s donations, and every member – present or absent – writes a $100 check.

It’s often a tough decision, but the nominations not selected are held over until they are selected. Once a charity has been awarded the donation, they cannot be nominated for two years.

After the club fair, 100+ Sun City Women Who Care ended up with enough members to become a group, and at the first meeting raised $2,100 for Staying Connected, the community’s resident assistance group.

“We do try to focus on Bluffton and Jasper counties,” Hoerner said. “There is a Bluffton, Hilton Head and Beaufort 100+ Women, so we’re trying to go west to Ridgeland and Hardeeville.”

Mack said it was a dream come true.

“I honestly thought it would take longer to get to this point,” she said. “My spiel whenever we talk with the group is that one of the recipients said when they moved here that they thought this was a wealthy area with pockets of poverty, but what they found was this was a very impoverished area with pockets of wealth. And I love the fact that this is women coming together and doing great things.”

Having reached the 100-member goal, Horner and Mack say there is more to do.

“For us, we can now do big things. This helps us help the community in bunches of $10,000 to our charities. That makes a huge impact in this beautiful town that we love,” said Mack.

Hoerner said they hope to keep growing.

“There’s no doubt that new, younger people are moving into Sun City. This is all great, and it’s done without publicity and a lot of meetings. Maybe this time next year we’re 200. Who knows?” she said. “That would be wonderful.”

As of the May meeting, 100+ Sun City Women Who Care had raised $87,400 between 15 quarterly meetings and one Covid-prompted email collection.

In addition to BJVIM and Staying Connected, other recipient nonprofits have included Memory Matters, Blue Line Tails, Julie’s Mission, Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen, Hopeful Horizons, Backpack Buddies, Dragonboats Beaufort, Programs for Exceptional People (PEP), Family Promise, and Boys & Girls Club of Bluffton.

As Hoerner said when the group was first formed, the only obligation members have is to show up at the meeting four times a year and write a $100 check.

“Now, $400 sounds like a lot of money, but it’s $8 a week. It’s the cost of a bottle of wine,” Hoerner said.

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.