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Avani Desai Is Leading by Example

Through her work with 100 Women Strong, this Orlando mom is raising children who love to give back.

As moms, our job is to prepare our children to be responsible individuals. Part of that job is helping them understand how they fit into their community and what role they play.

That’s why I’ve made a conscious decision to get my children involved in service at a young age. Kids are givers by nature. We’re all born with empathy and the potential to cultivate great compassion; therefore, it is important to give them firsthand, age-appropriate exposure to our community’s needs. Things like serving meals to the homeless, visiting sick children in the hospital or spending time with homebound seniors can make a lasting and impactful impression on kids. These experiences foster empathy and teach children that sometimes the simplest gestures are the most profound.

Another thing I’m doing is teaching my children that there is strength in numbers — that while one person alone may not end homelessness or hunger, a team of people working together most definitely can. Collective giving and providing help to those who need help is a practice that can never be initiated too early in life.

That is the guiding principle behind 100 Women Strong, a “giving circle” that I co-chair for Central Florida Foundation. Each member of 100 Women Strong donates $1,100 a year. We then analyze, research and consult with experts to identify initiatives that will help improve the lives of women and children in Central Florida. By pooling our funds, we can achieve collective impact that spans far beyond our individual contributions.

Since 2006, 100 Women Strong has invested more than $550,000 in local initiatives, including partnerships with the Foundation for Foster Children and Harbor House of Central Florida.

Recently, 100 Women Strong issued a grant that’s especially close to my heart. In partnership with the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, we’ll be helping expand a pilot program to address the social and emotional needs of children at two childcare centers in Pine Hills.

The program is focused on implementing the Circle of Security Model, which prepares caregivers with skills that foster feelings of attachment and security in the children. These interactions create the foundation for a healthy and productive life.

Talking with my kids about the “strength in numbers” principle has inspired us all to think bigger about ways we can help our community. Now, we often brainstorm our next charitable contributions together as a family.

So many of us want to shield our children from the tough realities of the world. But it’s during these early years that they’re most influenced by what they see and hear — and when they learn lifelong habits. Just know, you’re investing in your child’s character, direction and future — and that of the world.

Written by
Avani Desai

Avani Desai is a mom of two, executive vice president at Schellman & Company, member of board of directors at Central Florida Foundation and co-chair of 100 Women Strong, a collective giving initiative of the Central Florida Foundation that inspires women in Central Florida to help improve the lives of women and children through strategic philanthropy.

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Written by Avani Desai


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