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Small-biz group adds focus on charity

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At a Rockville art gallery, a few dozen small-business owners put their right hand over their heart to recite a list of affirmations:

“I am a spiritual and loving person … My business is expanding everyday … I am a great listener … I am a superstar.”

It was all part of a night of networking exercises that included tips from guest speaker Emmy M. Vickers, who encouraged the business owners to “never talk about yourself first” and “take notes during conversations.”

But in addition to learning how to improve their enterprises, members of the DC-MD Small Business Owner Networking group used their recent monthly meeting at Huckleberry Fine Art in Rockville to help a charity.

The 1,150-member group typically chooses one nonprofit to support financially at each monthly networking meeting. This was an absolute requirement for member Yvonne Lowe when the group’s leader asked her to become the event planner last year.

“My passion has always been nonprofits, so I always find a way to give back,” said Lowe, who worked at FedEx for 24 years before starting the event planning firm. “Even with my corporate clients, I always incorporate a charity in the proposals ... It’s the way our community will grow and the businesses will grow.”

For the monthly networking events, head organizer Evette Lewis prefers to select nonprofits whose leaders are within the group to “give my members a voice and platform for their efforts.” But in honor of American Heart Month, organizers did a Google search for a Maryland nonprofit focusing on heart health.

They found Sister to Sister, a nonprofit that aims to prevent heart disease in women through education and screenings.

Through registration fees collected online and at the door, the group raised $350 for the nonprofit.

The nonprofit’s director, Lisa Townsend, said the money will support programming and promotion.

“We haven’t done a fundraising event where it was businesses coming together to select a charity,” Townsend said. “There’s a lot of different ways to fundraise … It certainly gave us some new ideas.”

The business owner’s group has raised nearly $1,600 for charity in nine months. The group previously has supported the Cancer Support Foundation and Fresh Start Science.

Event organizers also allow the selected nonprofit to give a brief presentation about its mission.

Event sponsors were Whole Foods and Huckleberry Fine Art.

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