Men’s Group Donates $5,000 Quarterly to Local Charities & Organizations
Writer / Trisha Turner
Photographer / JWcreative.indy
You probably haven’t heard about Steven Woods’ group of do-gooders. And that’s just fine with him.
After all, he says, the element of surprise is one of the best parts of giving.
“It’s just the idea of knocking on someone’s door on a Tuesday morning and saying to them, ‘We want to give you this. There’s a group that believes in your cause, and good luck. There are no strings attached,’” Woods says.
What are they delivering? A bank bag containing $5,000 in cash — courtesy of Woods’ group. They call themselves Wonder 50.
Four times a year, the Franklin-based group of 50 men gathers on a Monday night at a local restaurant. Upon arrival, each member hands over $100 in cash and the name of a group or individual he believes should receive all the cash collected that evening.
Somebody — usually someone at the bar, Woods says — draws three of the names from a hat. And then it’s up to the member who made each of those selected recommendations to make the case for why his is most worthy to receive the money.
When the pitches are done, the group votes by show of hands to determine who will get the cash. And the following morning, representatives from Wonder 50 pay a surprise visit to the person or organization they selected to donate the collected funds.
“Think about how excited you are to put on a pair of pants and find a five-dollar bill. These people just found $5,000 they didn’t know they were getting,” Woods says of awarding the cash. “That’s when it gets exciting. That’s a game changer.”
Wonder 50 got its start a year ago. Woods, a financial advisor, spoke to a colleague who’s involved in a similar group in Chicago.
Woods began looking into his options for organizing something locally. Something that would allow members to give back to the community. Something that would provide an opportunity for fellowship among those who could be Franklin’s future leaders. And something that would provide a monetary shot in the arm for a local business on a Monday night.
But he hoped to offer something smaller and less structured than some of the more traditional philanthropic groups in the area.
Woods started with nine of his friends, who each recruited four or five friends of their own for the initial meeting, at The Willard. Since then, the group also has met at locations like Big Woods, Garment Factory Events and Shale Creek Brewing. And each member provides $100 or more for collecting at every gathering, even if he doesn’t attend.
“We’re just dudes drinking beer, and some guy gets up and makes his pitch,” Woods says. “It’s all very casual. Maybe too casual for some people. But all the guys in the group seem to like it.”
So do those involved with the individuals and organizations Wonder 50 has supported. The group’s efforts have benefited causes ranging from memorial funds to service providers.
Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County is one local charity to receive a surprise visit from Wonder 50. The pantry used the group’s $5,000 contribution toward purchasing food that is in demand but often not directly donated — items like eggs and white bread.
“A day doesn’t come by that we don’t get a huge thank you and hugs and lots of words of appreciation for Interchurch Food Pantry’s help,” says Carol Phipps, the pantry’s manager. “The dollars received from this group allow all of this to happen.”
Woods hopes Wonder 50’s work will serve as a model to others who want to give back to their communities. He encourages them to consider starting similar groups of their own.
“It doesn’t have to be a group of men,” he says. “It could be couples, veterans, whatever. By not having any rules, the possibilities are endless. If you’re doing good, and that sparks some momentum from this, then all the better.”