Grassroots Organization Evolves from Girls’ Night Out to Nonprofit Dedicated to Women’s Causes

When word got around that a woman in the community could no longer afford to pay for diapers, Jenelle Lefief and her girlfriends weren’t about to let the distraught mother use plastic bags as an alternative. Their decision to pool their resources and present the woman with the diapers she desperately needed served as a catalyst to do more.

That’s the motivation behind “Phoemale,” a grassroots nonprofit in Gross Pointe, Mich., that has evolved from regular girls’ nights out into a full-fledged charitable organization dedicated to helping women who have overcome domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and homelessness.

Phoemale – pronounced FEE-male — works with other nonprofit agencies including Wayne County SAFE, Turning Point and Cass Community Social Services to provide the unconventional support that might otherwise not be eligible for grant funding to help women rebuild their lives. The girlfriends have raised four times as much money from a year ago, when the group held events in Lefief’s home.

In one year since incorporating, Phoemale has financed mental health counseling; purchased a car that enabled a survivor of sexual assault to secure a job and support her children; paid off the debt of a domestic violence victim so she could move to a home where her abuser couldn’t locate her; and donated a refrigerator to a woman who had her appliance stolen by her abuser.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of Grantwatch.com, said establishing a nonprofit is an ideal way to help others in the community who are in need. The first step before creating a nonprofit, she said, is to determine that the proposed new 501c3 organization will not be duplicating the efforts of an existing organization. Incorporating with the IRS will formalize programs and services and provide credibility for the organization. Filings and fees will vary by state.

Phoemale is a registered 501c3 nonprofit, which means the organization is tax exempt under IRS codes. The all-volunteer group claims 100 percent of the money raised at Phoemale events is used to help women and not to pay overhead, salaries, or other expenses. As a 501c3 nonprofit, Phoemale is now eligible for grants for their women's organization and can review eligibility and full details of grants on GrantWatch.com.

In addition to raising funds for community nonprofits, the 12-member board of Phoemale performs volunteer work and hosts social and networking events. Lefief said meetings are limited to board members, but she expects the group to host general membership events later this year.

“We’re getting together, doing fun activities, supporting women and helping at least one woman build her life back up,” she said. “We know we’re lucky. We have family and friends and each other. But, how many women out there don’t have that? So, we’re spreading that love and support.”

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About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch.com

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