SAGINAW, MI — In February 1993, after seeing a call to action on a flyer, Saginaw native Evelyn McGovern met 15 or 20 other women at a club on Potter Street.
The women who came together that day had at least two things in common: they cared about their community and wanted to make a difference.
It was during this meeting that the organization Women of Colors was formed.
“The very first day we met, in our first meeting, we came up with the name Women of Colors,” McGovern recalled. “I thought that was really great, women from different backgrounds with different ideas, and I just embraced it.”
Women of Colors is a Saginaw-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting diversity and improving community relations in the Great Lakes Bay Area.
Violent crime in Saginaw neighborhoods was one of the first causes members rallied around. They marched through the streets to protest against the violence that was rampant at the time and to show their support for the mothers who had lost their children there.
“We were going into neighborhoods and giving those neighbors hope and letting them know there’s a better future,” McGovern said. “And we were lifting balloons for the victims who had been killed and helping those mothers, lifting those mothers.”
McGovern didn’t know it then, but she was helping lay the groundwork for a nonprofit that would still be central to her life and contributing to her community three decades later. She also found the volunteer work to be therapeutic as she mourned the loss of her mother, who died in an accident in 1992. McGovern was involved in the accident and was so badly injured that she had to miss her funeral. mother.
“(Volunteering) kept me from focusing on my depression at the time. I didn’t realize how traumatized I was until years later, you know, because I never sought therapy or anything for it. I just took care of it. My therapy was women of color,” she said.
About a year after that first meeting, McGovern applied for Women of Colors 501(c)(3) status, transforming it from a small, unofficial group of concerned citizens to a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
“I didn’t want to be president. I didn’t feel like I could be president of anything or founder of anything,” she said. “I just wanted to take the pain and turn it into something positive, and it felt so good to help others.”
Today, Women of Colors’ list of community accomplishments and contributions includes life and technology skills-building programs for children and teens, addiction prevention and recovery counseling, mentoring for youth, an annual winter coat drive for children, a scholarship fund for students, and forums for people to discuss topics like mental health, racial justice, criminal justice, and domestic violence , which airs on radio and Facebook Live and is available to stream on Apple TV and other platforms.
Last year, the organization received a $200,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to assess disparities in aftercare for Black residents affected by behavioral or substance abuse issues and to help improve services intervention throughout the region. And next year, Women of Colors will celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“We’re really excited to see how much we’ve grown,” McGovern said. “It’s hard to really pinpoint what I’m most proud of. …I like everything.”
McGovern was first elected president of Women of Colors in the late 90s and has been re-elected president every two years since. She is also the only remaining original member of the organization. The organization now has a dozen active members, but many more have contributed, volunteered and donated over the years and continue to support the organization in one way or another.
Anyone interested in becoming a member is invited to attend two meetings, which take place virtually at 6:15 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, to learn more. There is an interview process to join, and the annual membership fee is $100, which can be paid in full or in monthly or quarterly installments.
McGovern hopes to attract new members and a younger generation to the organization. She said Women of Colors is open to anyone who values diversity and community.
“The best is yet to come,” she said. “We are small but we are powerful, and that’s what I like.”
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