Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Inspired Women Opening New Chapters to Expand Local and Global Philanthropy

Apr 30, 2018 05:01PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Front row: Debra Dion Krischke, Sharon Scheidemantle Back row: Susan Paff, Melanie Saflin, Kym Gable, Dr. Gretchen Perkins

Did you ever want to do something to help a deserving charity, but think that your small donation might not make a big enough difference to those in need? Did you wish that you could do something more? Debra Dion Krischke, owner of Team Effort Events, had this same thought and decided to do something about it.

“For the past two decades, I’ve worked as a fundraiser producing special events, and though each is different, they all take a lot of time, effort and muscle,” Dion Krischke explained. “I thought, ‘There has got to be a better way to make serious money for women’s initiatives; to raise the funds that they need but don’t have the ability to get for themselves.’”

To this end, Dion Krischke started Inspired Women: Paying It Forward three years ago with just one mission—to create a space for women who have more in their lives to take action on behalf of women who have less.

“It’s a very simple concept, but it took me 30 years to get it,” she laughed. “The journey was not quite that easy.”

Members of Inspired Women meet four times a year, and each woman commits to donating $100 each quarter to a charity voted on by members. At the first meeting, Inspired Women had 18 members and donated $1,800; now these quarterly meetings raise more than $12,000. A new chapter will open July 11 in Westmoreland County.

“I love being a part of Inspired Women because it provides hands-on help,” explained Medicare Insurance Specialist Melanie Saflin. “While I could not write a check for $6,000, I can write a check for $100 and be a small part of helping women and girls.”

Sharon Scheidemantle, commercial regional manager for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, says that she joined to network with other like-minded businesswomen and because she wanted to give back to other women who are in crisis or need. “Individually we can donate to these charities, but when we collectively give these large checks to these groups, we are making a big impact,” she explained.    

Numerous local nonprofits have received money from the group, including Treasure House Fashions, Crisis Center North, and Living in Liberty, which offers a safe haven for trafficked girls. Inspired Women also provides funds to global nonprofits, with past donations going to support CEED, which provides water for women in northeast Kenya; Bead for Life, which empowers women to set up businesses in Uganda; and Hekima Place, a girls’ school and orphanage in Kenya. 

Each meeting, members may nominate a charity that they want to support, with local nominations and global nominations alternating quarters. The nominations are placed in a hat and three charities are randomly drawn. The person who nominated the charity gives a five-minute presentation about that group’s work, and members vote. The charity that is selected receives 100 percent of the money raised—usually between $6,000 and $8,000. Funds increase as membership grows, with each chapter working toward a goal of 100 members. 

“All of this is done during a one-hour meeting—it’s a happy hour on steroids,” said Dion Krischke. “It’s fast, sustainable and easy, and anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re retired, run a business or are a stay-at-home mom; all you need is $100 a quarter and the desire to give back to other women.”

Susan Paff, lead strategist, Ideality Communications, LLC, was thrilled when her nominated charity, the Women’s Center of Beaver County, won in 2015. “The director came back to our next meeting to report that our donation literally helped keep their doors open during the state budget stalemate, allowing them to supplement funds during a critical time period and continue to offer crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, legal and medical advocacy and prevention education,” she explained.

Gretchen Perkins of Perkins Dental Associates appreciates that Inspired Women enables her to learn more about both local and international causes from the people who are ‘hands on’ at the organization. “I’m not just dropping a check in the mail for something a friend thought was a good idea,” she said. “This group is also a way for me to make friends and network myself.”

Hoping to share these benefits with as many women as possible, a second chapter of Inspired Women was launched in the South Hills this past October. A new chapter will also be opening this summer in Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs. Between the two chapters, more than $12,000 is being donated quarterly.

“The streamlined simplicity is easily duplicated, and with Debra's insight and guidance, I was able to launch the South Chapter of Inspired Women,” said KDKA-TV media personality and speaker Kym Gable of the new group that meets at the Hyatt Place Meadowlands. “And I know, without a doubt, that I can guide the next chapter leader.

“The concept of quarterly happy hour networking meetings really resonates with women who have generous, compassionate hearts and who are already active leaders within their communities and organizations,” she added. 

The South Chapter has already provided funding to The Pink Pamper, which provides assistance for cancer victims, and Zephaniah Free Education, a school and girls’ skills center in Pakistan.

According to Dion Krischke, there’s no reason why anyone, anywhere, can’t open a chapter. “The biggest challenge is that women have to come to terms with the idea that they were not brought up to be philanthropists. But when you’re part of a group that gives upwards of $12,000 each quarter to a charity, you are a philanthropist—and by doing it this way, you’re making a collective impact.” 

To learn more about Inspired Women, visit or call 724-935-6100.