New giving circle, Tendaji, makes first donations

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Northside series.

Tendaji means "make things happen" in Swahili and a new local giving circle by that name is making thing happen for Merze Tate Explorers and the Black Arts & Cultural Center.

The newly formed grassroots group of philanthropic women, Tendaji, is the brainchild of Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, a State Farm insurance agent, and Belinda Tate, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Inspired by Woman Who Care, a Kalamazoo giving group that meets quarterly to bestow money on local nonprofits, Pritchett-Evans, a Woman Who Care member, and Tate started Tendaji as a grassroots opportunity for women of color to collectively offer financial support to cultural, educational, and human service initiatives in greater Kalamazoo. 

Each of the 20 group members, who represent diverse fields including education, medicine, financial and nonprofit sectors, donates $1,000, which is given annually to selected nonprofit groups with no strings attached.

"It’s not a solution. They can’t survive off of our check, but it says, ‘We know you are here. We care about what you are doing and we support you financially,’" Pritchett-Evans says. "That was important to us."

Tendaji received applications from nonprofits in July. Five of the organizations were then invited to give 10-minute presentations from which two were selected as recipients. Merze Tate Explorers, a travel group for young girls led by Sonya Bernard-Hollins , was awarded $15,000, and the Black Arts & Cultural Center, led by Executive Director Yolanda Lavender, was awarded $5,000.

Checks will be presented at a special awards ceremony,  6 p.m.  Thursday, Aug. 23, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. The presentation and reception is open to the public.

"The whole purpose is that we want to help provide a foundation to lift them up," says Pritchett-Evans, "and through our annual giving process, we’re making things happen."

For more information about Tendaji, please contact Pritchett-Evans at

Tendaji Co-Founder Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, far left, and a few of the some 20 members of her new philanthropic group take a break during the Saturday, Aug. 18 inaugural round of grant applicants' pitches.
Photo used with permission EARLENE MCMICHAEL | WMUK
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Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is the Managing Editor of Southwest Michigan Second Wave. As a longtime freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher, she has a passion for sharing the positive stories in Southwest Michigan and for mentoring young writers. She also serves as the Project Editor of the Faith in Action series and Project Lead for Battle Creek Voices of Youth.