Women's Fund doles out grants

Published on Thursday, 13 February 2014 14:34 - Written by Betty Waters blw@tylerpaper.com

Women pooled their philanthropic gifts Tuesday to give $143,451 in “impact grants” that benefit women and children in Tyler/Smith County to local nonprofit organizations.Leaders of The Women’s Fund, described as a giving circle of women who came together to make philanthropic gifts, announced the grants during a wine and cheese reception at One Realtor Center. Approximately 125 people attended.The Women’s Fund began giving annual grants in the community in 2009 and since then has given a total of $687,451 for projects that benefit women and children. The fund was created in 2008.This year’s grant recipients are Smith County Champions for Children Inc., $33,720; East Texas Crisis Center Inc., $33,392; St. Paul Children’s Foundation, $45,808; and North Tyler Day Nursery, $30,000.The Women’s Fund had 233 members in 2013 who contributed. Women rejoin every year, giving at least $500, but there are varying levels of donations ranging up to $25,000 or more.It’s a group of generous women who see a need in the community for impact grants providing significant amounts of money for projects, Betsy Brush Hahn, coordinator, said.“We spend the whole year collecting pledges and signing people up and at the end of that year, we give away grants that benefit women and children to local non-profits,” Ms. Hahn said. The fund also “helps grow and educate donors and philanthropists,” she added.All members vote in the spring on the grant focus for the year, picking from the areas of health, human services, education and arts and culture. Grant applications are accepted in the focus area chosen.A grant committee reads, discusses and evaluates grant applicationsMembers vote again in the fall on which grant applications they would like to fund. Nineteen applications were received in 2013.“It’s our intention to give significant gifts and grants to start important work,” Ms. Hahn said. “We often give money to things that might otherwise fall through the cracks.”Sharon Howell, executive board chairwoman for The Women’s Fund, said, “The grants awarded truly represent the power of the purse from women coming together collectively. These various grants that have been awarded over the past six years specifically focusing on need (in the belief) that if we can improve the life of women, that trickles down to the children. That’s our goals and our mission.”Debbie Jordan, grants committee chair, added, “We are thrilled every year to be able to give back to the community in a leveraged manner. It’s really leveraging smaller donations to make an impact in the community and that’s what is near and dear to my heart and many of the other ladies who have worked hard on the grant committee.”Giving circles are a big trend growing across the nation, Ms. Hahn said, pointing out that The Women’s Fund is part of The Women’s Collective Network that has collectively given almost $8 million.“It’s exciting for our members to hear what they’ve done together by pooling their money,” Ms. Hahn said.Smith County Champions for Children plans to use its grant funds for a women in the workforce early childhood employment program. The program will train and mentor women, especially single mothers, to be caregivers/teachers in area child care programs.This project will benefit the women participating, their children and the children in the classrooms in which they become employed, the grant application stated.East Texas Crisis Center will use its grant funds for a job preparation project by hiring a full-time jobs coordinator to expand job readiness and life skill services to victims of family violence.The coordinator will provide individual case management/counseling for shelter residents and increase referrals to job training opportunities in the community, liaison with community colleges and universities to develop mentoring programs, coordinate guest speakers and identify additional job training opportunities.North Tyler Day Nursery will use its grant to incorporate a variety of hands-on learning experiences along with books, pamphlets, fliers and fruits and vegetables to promote to families the importance of food choices for their well-being.Children will grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices in the classrooms and the program will encourage them to make healthy food choices while also encouraging parents to make better food selections.St. Paul Children’s Foundation will use its grant to create a clinic to help children from younger than 18 who have experienced trauma, according to its application.The foundation plans to purchase office furnishings, equipment, treatment manuals, charting files, language translation equipment and to fully equip a play therapy room and a women’s resource education room.