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A newly formed group is hoping to give Northern Virginia women an opportunity to make an impact in the local community.

Modeled after similar groups around the country, 100 Women Who Care Northern Virginia is a giving circle designed for women who want to give back to the community but don’t have a lot of time or an expansive budget for charitable giving, said founding member Traci Richards.

“People really are looking for a way that they can be part of something that makes a difference,” Richards said.

Each member of the group pledges to give $400 per year to local charities. The group meets quarterly to select the recipient nonprofit for each quarter, and then the members give $100 directly to that organization.

The goal is to have at least 100 women join, so that, pooled together, the group grants $10,000 per quarter. As of its first meeting this month, the Northern Virginia group had about 20 members, and since has recruited a few more.

Richards, an Ashburn resident, got the idea while reading a book by Regina Brett, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who wrote about the concept.

“My hair just stood up on my arms,” Richards said. “I poked my husband and said, ‘I could do this.’”

As someone with a professional background in nonprofits, Richards said she was keenly aware of the impact that an unplanned $10,000 gift can have on an organization.

After learning about the 100 Women concept in May, Richards began telling a few other people about it in the course of conversation, including a business meeting with a woman she had just met, Nancy Mayes.

Mayes, a Springfield resident who works in communications, immediately knew it was something she wanted to be involved in.

“It was just so intriguing that you could make something like this so easy and still have such a great impact,” Mayes said.

Richards and Mayes put together a timeline and got to work planning the first meeting, which was held in Annandale on Nov. 1.

Barbara Meier-Conte, a Springfield resident and friend of Mayes, said she really appreciates the “minimal input, maximum output,” concept of 100 Women Who Care.

“I find it sometimes difficult to get involved because of the time commitment,” Meier-Conte said. She also enjoys the social aspect of the group, getting a chance to meet women from all walks of life.

At each meeting, which lasts about an hour, anyone can nominate a nonprofit to receive a gift. The group emphasizes supporting local nonprofits, but the money can go to a national nonprofit if the money will be used locally, Richards said.

Three groups are picked at random from the pool of nominated nonprofits, and then the nominator gets about 10 minutes to explain what the organization does and takes questions from other group members.

“The group asked really intelligent questions,” Richards said.

Loudoun Therapeutic Riding, which provides equine therapy for people with disabilities, was the first recipient of the group’s donations. The funding will be used to provide scholarships for people who can’t afford the classes.

“Seeing it actually come to be was a really great experience,” Mayes said.

The group already has gained a few new members since the initial meeting, and both Richards and Mayes believe the group will continue to grow as word of mouth spreads.

“We have high hopes and optimism that the numbers are going to increase,” Mayes said.

For more information about 100 Women Who Care Northern Virginia, go to www.100wwcnova.org.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com