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North Hills Monthly

Inspired Women: Paying it Forward Supports Local Community, Global Causes

Apr 27, 2020 01:15PM ● By Vanessa Orr

(Seated l-r): Nicole Bell and Melanie Saflin (Standing l-r): Julie Snider, Grace Coleman and Sally Power, Photo by Dena Koenig Photography

During this time of crisis, it’s heartwarming to see people in the community come together to help out those in need. This isn’t a new concept for one group of women, however—the members of Inspired Women: Paying it Forward have been banding together to raise much-needed funds for local and global charities for the past five years. 

The brainchild of Debra Dion Krischke, the group, which now has chapters in the North Hills, South Hills and Westmoreland County, meets four times a year. Each woman commits to donating $100 each quarter to a charity voted on by members, and the amount, which is usually between $4,000-$6,000 per meeting, is given in a lump sum to the selected nonprofit.

“I love the idea that with just an hour or two of my time, I can help raise a great amount of money for a deserving organization,” said Julie Snider, a residential real estate agent with Achieve Realty. “I also appreciate learning about all of the different charities that support women and children—not just in our area but globally. I had no idea that there were so many resources out there.”

At each meeting, members can nominate a charity that they’d like to support. The nominations are placed in a hat, and three organizations are randomly drawn. The person who nominated the charity or its representative gives a five-minute presentation about the group’s work, and the members vote. The organization with the most votes receives the funds on the spot.

“Even if a nonprofit doesn’t win, it’s still a wonderful opportunity to have an audience and to inform the community of what we’re doing,” said Grace Coleman, executive director of Crisis Center North, a domestic violence counseling and education resource center that serves northern and western Allegheny County. “There are no losers. It’s a great way to get the word out effectively across a lot of different organizations, and in many cases, win other collaborators.”

“As a local charity, I know that without money, there is no mission, and sometimes the very thing that organizations need most is funds to accomplish their goals,” added Sally Power, founder of Treasure House Fashions, a nonprofit women’s resale shop. “When a group of women come together like this and give financially to a local or global women’s cause, it is very powerful.

“While I could give $100 and it would be appreciated, coming together with 1,000 women to give  $10,000 is far more effective,” she added.

To date, Inspired Women has given away more than $100,000 to local organizations including Crisis Center North, Angela’s Angels, and Living in Liberty, as well as international organizations like Cerasave (the Center for Rehabilitation for Survivors of Acid Violence) and the ASSERVO Project, which combats global human trafficking.

Just as important as funding local and global nonprofits, however, is the fact that Inspired Women provides a supportive and nurturing environment for members. 

“There is a lot of really phenomenal work being done by women in the region, but that work can be relatively isolating,” said Coleman. “Inspired Women gives us the opportunity to gather to talk about the work while also having a collective impact.”

According to Nicole Bell, head chef and owner of Nicole’s Kitchen, LLC, a catering business based out of Etna, it only took one meeting to convince her to join. 

“The people I met were fantastic,” she said, adding that she had learned about Inspired Women through another member’s Facebook page. “It’s very 2020 to be supporting your sisterhood like this, and it’s great to be able to cheer on other women business owners. 

“While I have gotten catering jobs from it, which are much appreciated, that wasn’t my reason for joining,” she added. “I’m generally skeptical of networking groups, but members of Inspired Women aren’t just there to talk about their own businesses. They are there because they want to be a part of something more.” 

For Melanie Saflin, owner of Medicare Choices, and a member since the group’s inception, one of the biggest benefits is  knowing how her contributions are used.

“We all want to support women in need and make a difference in their lives. But in many cases, you can’t be sure that you’re really making an impact,” she explained. “Every dollar that we raise goes directly  to helping the people who need it; not to someone sitting in an office. 

“In our last meeting, which we held on Zoom because of the COVID crisis, we were able to give $4,000 to The Lighthouse Foundation, a food bank in Butler, at a time when they really needed it,” she added. “I  hope that after an event like we’re currently experiencing, we’ll see even more participation from women who understand the importance of giving back.”

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