Washington Women’s Foundation (WaWF) Member Sharon Hammel spoke in July 2022 at our Member Jubilee. She reflected on her experiences as a member, and on the change and challenges of the past few years: COVID-19, societal unrest, and our need as a public foundation to respond to our community. We’re grateful to share her remarks with you.
I’ve been asked to talk about why I’ve been a member of WaWF for the last 9 years, through all our updates and changes. I initially joined because Pamela McCabe and Betty Drumheller encouraged me to when we met on a trip to Guatemala. I hadn’t realized it was open to all women.
They also said I needed to join the Member Engagement committee because that was the fun committee. It certainly has proved to be fun! Contrary to some other committees, our topics require us to talk about our feelings and reactions in conversations that can run over the time allotted, instead of always feeling like we have to move on quickly. I’d encourage more of you to join us as we think about books, movies, podcasts and visits that would engage and inform our members.
I have a love/hate involvement with Grants. Obviously more love because I have been on a grant committee every year but one since I joined. Every year, every subject, every non-profit, every member of the committee has been an eye-opening experience for me. I’m not naïve but one just cannot conceive of all the issues that impact people’s lives, all the people with a passion to make a difference in their lives, and all the goodness that comes with their and our participation. I love the Jana Stanfield quote “I cannot do all the good the world needs but the world needs all the good that I can do.” It is time consuming and you have to make tough decisions but I’m always happy that I did it! As more younger women join, as more women from different backgrounds join, as we learn more about our State and dig into issues that ultimately impact all of us, as we all grow our compassion and understanding for different realities, we will improve the work we do.
Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul said it best: “people want things to be better but not different – and that is just not doable.” We want our communities to be healthier but some have decided that to fund organizations focused on race and gender is perhaps a step too far, too political. I disagree. We are more focused because our world needs us to be. We are more focused because we are finally learning that the people closest to the issues have the most knowledge about the complexities, the intersectionalities of the solutions. We are more focused because we value a more equitable world and our work must reflect it. Change is the only constant in the world – even if we are sometimes uncomfortable.
Ultimately, the reason I joined is that I love making decisions with women. I believe that women will ultimately be the ones to save our country and our planet. The subtleties, the nuances, the ability to try to understand others and keep probing, the connections and contributions we as women make, are ours to own. I am a feminist from the 70s, a working mom from the 80s, 90s and 00’s and a former investment person who has worked with plenty of men. We women, although fierce, are a wonderful breed of humans who talk with our hands, talk over and around each other, while still hearing each other; share experiences that all women seem to have – caring for others, to make our world a better place. I feel cared for by this group – not good friends with many, but good companions with all. I feel free and engaged with all of you. WaWF has brought me many a happy day, walking the Waterfront, discussing a book, deciding who to move along to the next step in the grant making process. I love that everyone brings their passions to the fore, but when we make a decision, we move on. All of you are involved in issues and causes so that when you speak of them, I learn and grow. I’m challenged by people and issues I’ve not considered before. I’ve not known journalists or performance artists before, or even computer engineers!
It has been a hard few years. As a National Geographic article in June of 2022 said, the importance of touch cannot be overemphasized, it being the first way we know about our world. Touch has been in short supply with the pandemic. Thank goodness for my family. However, a friendly hug or tap on the shoulder or just seeing those connections gives me comfort. A place of connection and concern, a place of rejuvenation and conviviality. A place where we stretch and grow. I hope all of you find a home, away from home, here at WaWF.