A Safe Place, a Lake County-based women and children's shelter in Zion, hit the jackpot Tuesday night.
The organization and their new program to help children who witness domestic violence won a $100,000 grant from Impact 100 Chicago, a Palatine-based nonprofit, during a dinner held at Arlington Park.
"Thank you for making our dreams come true," said board member Gene Minsky of Lake Forest. "This is beyond belief."
The announcement drew a standing ovation from the nearly 150 guests in attendance. It came at the end of a competition in which four finalist organizations vying for the night's biggest award made presentations on what they would do with the money.
The three remaining finalists all won grants of $14,000 to help with wish list projects. They included the Family Health Partnership Clinic in Woodstock, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Clinic and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.
Two years ago, founders of Impact 100 made good on their goal of finding 100 women willing to donate $1,000 each, enabling them to make good on their motto of "Women Empowering Change."
In fact, they drew 126 women the first year and a total of 142 this year, allowing them to donate a total of $250,000 in their first two years.
"It's the power of collective funding," said Marybeth Lernihan of Barrington, one of the co-founders. "We're able to do much more collectively than we would if we each donated $1,000 to an organization of our choice."
Board members with A Safe Place said they would be able to purchase therapeutic supplies for the children while improving living and recreational space in the shelter, including building a new playground, a shed for toys and bikes and an indoor sprinkler system.
Much of the work in deciding the grant finalists had been done before Tuesday night. More than 60 members of Impact 100 had served on focus groups to help evaluate agencies that had applied for grants.
The process included research on the organizations, interviews and on-site visits before they narrowed the applicants to the four finalists. More than 100 nonprofits submitted grant applications, twice as many as last year, officials said.
Pam Mitchell had served as a teacher and school board member for parochial schools in Palatine and Barrington before joining Impact 100.
"I'm so impressed with the professionalism and integrity of the women involved and their quest to empower these organizations," Mitchell said. "It's just phenomenal."
Noelle Moore, interim executive director for A Safe Place, had tears in her eyes as she thanked members for their grant.
"This means so much to the all the children who will be impacted by your generosity."