I’ve lived in the Wakatipu for a very long time, and I thought I knew pretty well everyone who was doing the most interesting things here, but a couple of powerhouse American women who kindly bought some tickets for the Cancer Society’s Great Gatsby ball taught me that there is a huge flock of fabulous birds of every age, nationality and profession living in the Wakatipu.
Jennifer Belmont is known to everyone as the architect of the Wakatipu Community Foundation which seems to have a finger in every pie that feeds and nourishes our community, be it schools, sports, cultural projects or now the Greatest Needs Fund which is literally helping feed and care for all the local workers who have lost their jobs and really need support.
Kristen Holtzman knows a lot about philanthropy too, and she brought Carrie Morgridge to Queenstown in February to talk to a lucky group of locals who learnt about making every gift count. Kaye Parker organised such an excellent itinerary for Carrie’s three days in town that she fell in love with the Wakatipu (who doesn’t?) and has pledged a substantial amount to the Queenstown Trails Trust, local schools, and the Nature Conservancy. Carrie’s father in law is Chairman Emeritus of technology giant Cisco Systems and he gave her an incredible wedding present - he put her in charge of giving away the income of a huge fund he had set up, so every year she has to choose what projects it goes to . How wonderful would that be? She plans on coming back next year as well to do even more good things.
I love supporting pet projects but always feel my donation is only a tiny drop and can hardly make any difference, so I was over the moon to be invited to join the first Impact100 group in New Zealand. It’s been going in America for a long time, and Kristen realised that in a small place like this, its impact can be huge. It’s such a simple idea - find 100 women who want to donate $1000, then invite existing local groups to explain how they could use $100,000 to best effect. In doing so, they learn a lot about applying for grants (quite an art!) and the women involved learn a lot about the needs in their community. As you can imagine, $100,000 is an extremely useful chunk of money.
The first meeting was just before the lockdown was announced and immediately 48 women signed up, and now that life might start getting a bit more normal in the next few months, there will be some more meetings. Do have a look online at Impact100 - it’s extremely simple and helpful. Apart from that, it looks like being a lot of fun. What woman doesn’t love being in a group of generous, positive friends who like helping make their community better? Sorry, chaps but it’s only women at this stage - if you want to support it, you are very welcome to sponsor a woman you think would enjoy being part of it, and who might not have $1000 to sign up. Each woman gets a vote in deciding which group it should go to. The membership form is above with an email if you want to know more.
I asked three members why they joined.
Lorena from Patagonia said “We were new to Queenstown when we opened our business - the community has been so kind to us that we always want to be kind to our community. Our business is all about making people happy and Impact100 will definitely make happiness happen.”
Charlotte Montgomery “I’m a new resident of the Wakatipu, an area I’ve loved all my life. I was always involved in community projects in Christchurch and want to do the same here. Impact100 was the perfect solution - a chance to meet so many energetic, enthusiastic women as well as learning what’s important in this beautiful corner of the world, and helping to make a big difference.”
And longtime local, Jan Spary says “Arrowtown has been home for my family for over 50 years now. The locals couldn’t have been kinder to these strangers who knew nothing about farming, and we have tried our hardest to repay that by doing as much as we could for this wonderful place ever since. I’m old now, and Impact100 sounds such a fun project that lets me do as much or as little as I can cope with, plus keeps me in contact with interesting people doing their bit for others. Also, my daughter had joined and I like knowing what she’s up to!”