Since 2010, the Sacramento-based Gender Health Center has been providing a unique service sought by people in need from throughout more than 25 counties. “We are a community mental health organization,” explains executive director Ben Hudson, “and though we serve anyone seeking mental health services, we specialize in gender identity and assisting transgender individuals.” Gender Health serves about 2,500 people annually on a sliding-scale basis, with most clients paying $10 or less for an appointment with a therapist.
Hudson notes that Gender Health exists because there is a strong community need for culturally competent care to meet the mental health and health needs of transgender individuals. “Meeting the needs of a marginalized population means many other people benefit, too,” he says. “About 40 percent of our clients are LGBT and the other 60 percent come to us because we are one of Sacramento’s most accessible, affordable mental health care sources.”
Beyond mental health counseling, Gender Health provides transgender individuals advocacy services for health care and insurance, in the education system and the workplace, as well as legislative advocacy, which it’s uniquely positioned for in the state capital.
“We also offer Danelle’s Place, a respite program for people facing a mental health crisis to take a break from that crisis,” says Hudson. “It’s a critical alternative to the ER for those who may be suicidal. We provide limited medical services in partnership with UC Davis Medical Center for trans people seeking hormone treatment, too.”
From 2013 to 2015, Gender Health’s staff grew from two to nine members and their cramped midtown Sacramento office began to hinder their ability to serve clients. Staff members worked from hallways, stairwells, outdoors and neighboring coffee shops. “We tried to do more work than space allowed,” says Hudson. “In spring 2015, our landlord informed me additional office space was opening, and we needed it, but didn’t know how we would afford it.”
Enter 100+ Women Who Care Sacramento Valley, a philanthropic group with an incredibly simple yet ingenious format.
Conceived in August 2014 by Jennifer Shaw and launched in March 2015, 100+ Women is in its infancy in Sacramento. But it has already burgeoned from about 100 to more than 160 members in just three short meetings. Its form of giving is simple, fast and effective, and the concept is so alluring that community members with a philanthropic mindset are eagerly joining the fun.
Here’s how it works: Members meet and donate $100 each to a chosen non-profit quarterly. If there are 160 members, as there are now, that’s $16,000 in personal checks written directly to a nonprofit recipient. Meeting four times annually means members have committed to donating $400 each year, but otherwise there are no monthly meetings, sitting on boards or volunteer hours.
“I love the simplicity,” says founding member Shaw. “I knew it had to be really easy for people to want to join. I’m busy and know everyone else is, too. All we expect from members is to show up, eat, drink, have fun and write a $100 check four times per year.” At each meeting, three nonprofits are chosen lottery style. After all three make a 5-minute pitch to the 100+ Women as to why they should receive the night’s donation, members vote for one to be that quarter’s recipient.
Recipients take home $100 from each member, and for Gender Health that totaled $12,400. “If you’re one of the three groups randomly drawn, you just hit paydirt,” says Shaw. “Even if you’re not voted as the recipient that night, you’re exposed to a roomful of philanthropic-minded women who may donate to your group, volunteer, sit on your board, and spread the word, and your name goes back in for another chance to be drawn.”
Hudson presented the 5-minute pitch to 100+ Women at their June meeting and swayed them with Gender Health’s clear need for more space to do their work, proving the donation would make a direct local impact. “The money we received was almost exactly what the new rental space would cost for a year,” says Hudson. “It was a huge blessing and the timing was phenomenal.”
Thanks to 100+ Women Who Care, Gender Health Center grew from 1,500 square feet to 2,300 square feet. The expanded workspace accommodates staff members and clients comfortably for Gender Health’s 250 mental health appointments and 100 advocacy and healthcare appointments per week, and enables them to continue their cutting-edge work for a population in need.