Being able to give back is key to mental health, The Be Event founder Meghan Heritage says.
The nonprofit doesn’t aim to “reinvent the wheel” or replicate what other West Michigan nonprofits are doing.
The Be Event works as a kind of “911 charity,” filling in the cracks, Heritage says. It fields calls from other, larger nonprofits such as Resilience, Love in Action, Gracious Grounds, and Mosaic Counseling when they have a need that doesn’t exactly fit their mission or they aren’t able to fill.
In the past six years, the Grand Haven-based nonprofit has raised about $15,000 annually to help West Michigan women with utility bills, funeral expenses, medical bills, food, and diapers, among other “Band-Aid” items, Heritage says. The Be Event has purchased tires for someone with stage 3 cancer, so she could get to her doctors' appointments. It gives anywhere from $200 to $1,500 at a time.
It also helps connect people to organizations that can help where it cannot.
“That’s what I like about West Michigan,” Heritage says. “If you ask, they will show up for you in the most remarkable ways.”
The event, itself
The money comes from The Be Event
annual luncheon, which offers attendees camaraderie and speakers who help them to be present — not perfect — in different areas of their lives. Find more on the group's Facebook page
The Be Event annual luncehon helps women "be present" in various areas of their lives.
“Being giving is tied to our mental health and wellness,” Heritage says. “If we isolate, it’s literally a form of torture.”
Every ticket pays for the ticket of a second woman, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.
December 2020 marked the event’s sixth year. For the first time, the event was entirely virtual. Swag bags were mailed out to homes, and women from around West Michigan gathered via the Internet to discuss six life areas: career, giving, spirituality and peace, health and wellness, finance, and relationships.
The Be Event doesn’t ask anything of the attendees. It is all about fulfilling them — women of different backgrounds and socio-economic types — so they can, in turn, be in a position to help others.
Losing a friend
Eight years ago, Heritage lost her dear friend, Dr. Elizabeth Curtis, to an amniotic embolism.
“My life kind of broke a little bit after that.”
Until that point, her life had been almost solely goal-driven: “Get all the degrees, win all the awards, be successful.”
That night, she discovered something.
“I can’t buy my way out of this or work my way out of this.”
She immediately threw herself into work, 24-7. Work was becoming a procrastination tool to avoid anxiety and sadness. However, she also soon realized she wasn’t alone in this.
The Be Event started as a way to honor her friend with a luncheon for women, answering the question “How can we Be more present?”
Curtis always wanted everyone around her to “know it was a sisterhood and not a competition,” Heritage says.
And, in that spirit, Heritage wanted to “make something that was incredibly bitter into something that was better.”
“Someday when I see her again — and I believe that I will — I just want her to say ‘well done,’” Heritage says.
Now, The Be Event is being franchised. Groups across the country have begun working with Heritage and The Be Event to put on similar events where they are. Last year, there was an event in Oakland County. More are planned for the Flint area and as far away as North Carolina.