The Herald Bulletin

August 12, 2013

$700 grows into thousands for Dove Harbor

By Emma Bowen Meyer For The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – Natalie Farmer and her sister, Hillary Novak, were about to hand a check for $700 to Dove Harbor, the safe haven organization for women in crisis

Instead they distributed that amount to a crowd in $5 increments and hoped the gift would come back – with a little bit of a snowball effect.

While tithing is not new to the sisters, deciding to pull a community into the giving experience was a novel – and frightening – idea.

To everyone’s amazement, the $700 brought back a whopping $13,704.95.

“It was terrifying to give away $700 from our checking account,” said Farmer, accountant for singer Sandi Patty. “Some of the people were new and we didn’t know them. We took a leap of faith and engaged a crowd of people and we raised so much more than we could have by ourselves.”

Farmer and Novak own Sister Fitness and teach three Zumba classes each week at Madison Park Church of God. Approximately 100 to 120 women attend each session, enjoying a workout and child care for $5. Dove Harbor is one of the agencies that regularly benefits from the charity of the business.

Rather than giving a lump sum this year, the sisters decided to pass out five-dollar bills to the attendees of the July 9 session and ask the women to plant the money and make it grow. They never dreamed the harvest would be so plentiful.

Lemonade stand, movie night

Farmer and Novak announced that if students were unable to participate, they should simply return the money at the appointed time. If everyone returned exactly what they were given, Dove Harbor would still receive the original amount that was slated for donation.

“Their goal was to empower other women,” said Deanna Zimmer, director of resource development at Dove Harbor. “Everything they do is so intentional. They had a 95 percent return and fewer than 10 women only brought back the five dollars. “

Some women set up a lemonade stand with their children, one gained sponsors and ran, one hosted movie night in her home and charged admission, one organized a corn hole tournament, one approached businesses for donations and one melted crayons into the shape of hearts and sold them.

Original ideas abounded and every participant has a tale to tell.

“We are blown away,” said Zimmer. “It is unbelievable. It surpassed our goal, our dream, our hope. We’ve seen transformation and how it’s touched each woman. Every one of them has a story. Women here are inspiring women (at Dove Harbor).”

“These women have blown our minds,” said Farmer. “We thought maybe they would raise $1000. We are so excited. It’s been very powerful to see the response.”

“I loved doing the lemonade stand with the kids,” said Novak, sixth grade teacher at Yorktown. “It was such a great opportunity to teach them about giving back to the community and working hard to raise money for Dove Harbor. They were proud of that.”

“Natalie and Hillary were concerned because their average attendance in the summer is only around 80,” said Zimmer. “But they kept telling the students to be there on July 9 and the women were so excited to see what they were doing.”

Exactly 140 participants arrived on the big night – which exactly matched the number of $5 bills Farmer and Novak brought. Later 15 absent students supplied their own start-up money and joined in the fundraiser.

“You have to engage a community to make a difference,” said Farmer. “This town needs that message – that we can come together and make a difference.”

If you go What: Zumba Classes When: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. Where: Madison Park Church of God Cost: $5 with free child care