November 2017 Writer \/ Cindy Argentine Zionsville Women in Network (ZWIN) started as an organization to support women in business. \u201cWe noticed a need in our town for women to get together to promote their businesses,\u201d says Kathy Wood, co-founder. In 2013, Wood and another local businesswoman, Debbi Kuller, met for coffee and began imagining what a local networking group might look like. They wanted to help women grow socially and professionally, and they wanted service to be part of the group\u2019s mission. They brainstormed ideas, drafted bylaws, advertised their first meeting, and hoped ten people would join. When 30 women came to the kickoff in June 2013, Wood and Kuller were \u201cblown away.\u201d Now, four years later, the group weaves functionality, fun, and philanthropy seamlessly together. Membership has grown to include over 50 women. ZWIN is showing that what is good for individual women is also a boon to Boone County. Twice a year, the group schedules a social event where the main activity is community service. Last June, they threw a \u201cJewelry Bling Fling\u201d at ZWorks. Prior to the event they held a jewelry drive\u2014asking members, friends, and neighbors to donate stylish jewelry they no longer wore. The response was amazing. The night of the event, members sifted through mound after mound of sparkling adornments. They sorted them, cleaned them, and grouped them into ensembles\u2014this gold necklace with these hoop earrings and that cuff bracelet, for example. As jewelry sets were organized, ladies placed them into pink chiffon bags and attached hand-written notes of encouragement. Who were the recipients? The Caring Center in Lebanon and Birds Be Free Foundation. The Caring Center assists women facing domestic violence and other difficult situations. \u201cThe director was absolutely thrilled that she was able to give those gals something like this,\u201d Wood says. Birds Be Free Foundation was started by a Zionsville salon owner, Cindy Crowe-Layne. Kuller met her through a business connection and also heard her speak at a church event. Birds Be Free helps women who have been in jail or struggled with addiction by providing make-overs and support. Crowe-Layne displayed the jewelry bags and asked ladies to pick out whichever set they wanted. \u00a0One of the recipients wrote a special thank-you note telling what it meant to her. \u201cThis gal got a necklace that said \u2018Believe.\u2019 She was going through the most awful thing, and she was in tears. It touched her, even for that second. There are lots of stories like that,\u201d Wood says. ZWIN is continuing its outreach to women in need this December. They are partnering with Project Purse Indianapolis to donate purses filled with toiletries, bus passes, and first aid supplies to local women. Project Purse distributes the items at homeless shelters, schools, churches, and other venues. It\u2019s a tangible, practical way to encourage struggling women. Kuller adds that it\u2019s really easy to do. \u201cThe response to our drives is amazing. People are like, \u2018Gosh, I have so many purses I don\u2019t use,\u2019 or \u2018I have so much jewelry.\u2019 We are just the means for passing it along.\u201d The community can contribute to this December\u2019s drive by donating new or gently used purses in very good condition. Additionally, people can donate travel-size toiletries, first aid items, beauty products (such as hair ties, nail polish, lip balm), or stationery supplies like capped pens and small note pads. All of these will be tucked into the purses to assist the ladies who receive them. Community members may drop off purses or the small items suggested above at Century 21 Scheetz or Old National Bank, or they may give them to a ZWIN member. In December, the group will fill the purses and write notes to the recipients while celebrating the season of giving. ZWIN is serving the community in other ways, too. This September, a team of nine ZWIN members led by Susan Albers erected the walls of a house built for a local mother through Habitat for Humanity. On October 26, ZWIN hosted an Appreciation Luncheon at the new Town Hall for the fire department, police officers, and other town hall employees. ZWIN members served pulled pork and homemade sides and desserts while getting to know our public servants. In December, the group will continue its annual tradition of serving hot chocolate to shoppers at Christmas in the Village outside Five Thirty-One Home. The giving extends beyond ZWIN events. Individual members use their connections within ZWIN to promote additional charitable causes. When the food bank at the Caring Center in Lebanon was critically low, a ZWIN member advertised the need on Facebook and boosted donations. \u201cWhat\u2019s cool about this is when we have announcements at our meetings, most of the announcements are philanthropic-related. Leigh Ann Akard has something almost every time; there\u2019s Habitat for Humanity; or someone has an event within their own company to announce. I love that,\u201d says Wood. Kuller and Wood knew that establishing a group to help women build their business networks would be valuable to those individuals. And as the founders hoped, it also valuable to the community. Kuller says she looks forward to every meeting: \u201cI get excited about everything about it\u2014the friendships, personal support, community involvement. When we think about our initial vision and what has happened, Kathy and I just pinch ourselves.\u201d For more information about the organization and its upcoming events, visit the ZWIN website at zionsvillewin.org.