"I don't think I pictured anything positive or happy. I just pictured myself, like, this is who I am, this is what I have, and this is who I'm going to be the rest of my life," Teresa explains.
Teresa was pregnant at 16 and just six months ago, homeless in Austin, Texas with a son to feed. But instead of handouts, she got a hand up — well about 100 hands really — from women like Rebecca Powers living in the same city, but a different world.
"We did a lot in our schools and our church, but we didn't ever think about how we might participate in our town," Rebecca says.
So, over coffee, Rebecca and her friends decided to try a new take on the old sewing circle: a "giving circle." Each woman asks their friends — and friends' friends — to donate $1,000, until the pot hits $100,000. Then they get a vote on where the money goes.
That kind of grassroots giving is growing. More than 400 giving circles have sprouted across the country, with women raising anywhere from few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands.
Cincinnati mom Wendy Steele saw the potential five years ago and began recruiting busy moms and working women who couldn't afford to volunteer.
"I tried to find a way for them to get involved without giving their most precious commodity, their time," Steele says.
The Austin group's first grant helped fund a work training program for at-risk youth. Their circle has grown to more than 300 women and recruiting is as easy as a trip to the ice cream shop.
"We can see the face of the people we're helping. We can go into Ben and Jerry's and the kids behind the counter are there because our money is paying their salaries. That's powerful," Powers says.
Today, Teresa has an apartment, a paycheck and pride.
"The first thing I did was take my son out and buy him shoes and clothes. It was lovely," Teresa says.
And that hand up has created something else, she says.
"Every time I'm on the street and someone asks me for change, I'm going to give them what I have. Even if it's the last dollar in my pocket, I'm going to give it to them because I've been there before and I know how it feels," Teresa says.
The giving circle keeps giving.
For more information about Impact Austin, please click here. You can also learn more about LifeWorks, which transitions youth and families from crisis to safety and success.
For tips on volunteering, please click here.
For information on how you can donate, click on The Association of Fundraising Professionals, committed to advancing philanthropy through education training and advocacy. The Foundation Center also has resources on philanthropy.