Don’t ever tell Jane Stepp a few people can’t make a difference.

That’s because this difference maker is a founding member of the Eastland Giving Circle, a group of philanthropic and civic-minded people dedicated to making an impact on the lives of Eastern Jackson County residents through a yearly donation.

It all sounds so simple – yet this dynamic group has had an impact on too many lives to count.

Back in 2010, Stepp was with three other women– Lauri Meyer, Kelly Manning and Trisha Goodale – talking about giving something back to their community.

“I think there might have been some wine involved with the conversation,” quipped Stepp, “but we wanted to do something for our community and we had heard of people who put some money into a fun (event) rather than, say, going out to dinner or doing something for themselves.

“It sounded like a great idea.”

And the Eastland Giving Circle was born.

“We wanted to get some of our friends to donate $300,” Stepp continued, “and then get some of their friends to donate $300. I don’t really know why we selected $300 – it was just a nice, even number and it amounted to $25 per month, which we all could afford.

“And before you knew it, we had 100 founding members and were able to donate $30,000 to a local charity. In fact, some years we get even more funding because some of our members double and triple their donations. And this year the circle grew to 125 members, allowing us to award two grants.”

Beneficiaries have included:

• 2017 – Mother’s Refuge ($30,000) and Rachel House ($16,000), Eastern Jackson County

• 2016 – Community Services League, Eastern Jackson County

• 2015 – Pro Deo Youth Center, Lee’s Summit

• 2014 – Midwest Foster Care, Independence

• 2013 – ReDiscover, Lee’s Summit

• 2012 – St. Mary’s Manor, Blue Springs

• 2011 – Drumm Farm Center for Children, Independence

• 2010 – Hillcrest Transitional Housing, Lee’s Summit

EGC awards a grant to one organization through an annual application process. An organization may receive this grant once in a three-year period. Grant recipients are announced in early November, as Mother’s Refuge and Rachel House received their grants last week. The primary targets for 2017 were programs/projects supporting Children's Needs: Prenatal to Toddler.

Addiction will be the focus of 2018.

“We are ordinary women making an extraordinary impact in our community,” Stepp said. “As some of us are cycling off as board members, we remain committed to helping EGC continue to thrive in the future. It has been an amazing experience.”

Stepp, Meyer and Nancy Bruns, all of whom have served on the board since its inception, as well as Debbie Starke, will help with the transition during the upcoming year. Other current board members include Melanie Cline, Shawnna Fleenor, Chris Foresee, Lori Irwin, Kelley Manning, Pam Stepp, Megan Culbertson, Karen Meisenheimer and Laura Vernon.

New board members include Rochelle McBride, Becky Hughes and J.J. Coates.

The Eastland Giving Circle has awarded more than $215,000 to improve the local community through charitable giving. Each member makes a small contribution that allows the group to give to a project that will make the biggest impact on Eastern Jackson County. In the process, each member learns about needs in the community and has the opportunity to vote on a project that she believes will make the biggest difference.

To join the Eastland Giving Circle, go to www.growyourgiving.org. Click on “Give” and then on “Contribute to Someone Else’s Fund.” By clicking on the link for the Eastland Giving Circle you’ll be able to make a credit card donation. If you would rather mail a check, you may do so by mailing a check for $302.50 to the Eastland Giving Circle, GKCCF, 1055 Broadway, Suite 130, Kansas City, Mo., 64105. All contributions are tax deductible.

For more information about the Eastland Giving Circle please email eastlandgivingcircle@gmail.com. Membership is open to anyone wanting to make a difference in Eastern Jackson County.