Information is Power
Too often, women and girls in our region who struggle with mental health issues can’t connect with the specific help they need. “There are services out there, but finding out about all of them is incredibly difficult,” says Sharon Ball, who chaired an ad hoc advocacy committee on mental health for the Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund.
The Women’s Fund formed the committee in late 2014 to measure the gap between available mental health services and needs in our region, learn how that gap affects women and girls and advocate for changes to help close the gap.
The initiative started when Dr. Camelia Lawrence, a breast surgeon who was then a member of the Women’s Fund’s Leadership Committee, spoke of the obstacles some of her patients faced when they needed mental health services. In response, the Leadership Committee launched an in-depth effort to map the local mental health landscape.
Members of the ad hoc committee hosted a focus group with local decision makers involved in mental health. They later surveyed focus group participants about their priorities for service improvements. In addition, they met with people from the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Mobile Integration Team, 2-1-1/First Call for Help at United Way of Broome County and the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST) to learn about their offerings.
The biggest finding to emerge from this research was the lack of coordination and collaboration among providers, says ad hoc committee member Linda Biemer. “Different agencies don’t seem to know what other agencies are doing.”
When a woman or girl doesn’t get the help she needs, often it’s simply because there’s no one to point her toward appropriate services.
Having evaluated the problem, committee members determined how the Women’s Fund could make a real difference. “We could help to fund information and referral sources at an agency, to bring things together and stay on top of them—who’s still seeing patients, who’s providing what,” says Jennifer Small, another committee member.
The Women’s Fund invited MHAST to submit a proposal for a mental health information and referral service. That grant was approved in 2016 and will be funded by the Women’s Fund in conjunction with the Community Foundation.
“The Mental Health Association is in a wonderful position to help,” says Ball. It has experience, good contacts in the community and strong name recognition, she says.
Lawrence is pleased with the way the Women’s Fund responded to her initial observations. “What a great group of women, to rally behind this not only to listen, but to develop an action plan and do the leg work for an entire year,” she says. “They have come up with a resolution that I think is effective and will work.”
Salons Expand our Circles
One of the best ways to forge connections is to sit people down to discuss a compelling topic. That’s why the Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund has gotten into the business of sponsoring salons. Bringing women together to gain new insights and exchange ideas, these events provide a chance to meet like-minded people and maybe make new business contacts or friends.
They also help gain more supporters for the Women’s Fund.
Like the intellectual gatherings that started in Europe in the 16th Century, the Women’s Fund’s salons mix pleasant conversation and education. The fun starts at 5 p.m. at a local restaurant, with drinks and light refreshments. Then it’s time for a presentation.
In November 2013, a salon in Binghamton featured a talk by Jennifer Wegmann of Binghamton University on how educated, powerful, loving women can combat the harmful messages the media send to young girls.
In June 2014 in Owego, Liz De Vivo shared the story of her heart and lung transplant to illustrate how each of us can help to create miracles every day.
Women who gathered in Norwich in October 2014 heard Colgate University professor Ellen Percy Kraly discuss her work with the Bwindi Community Hospital in rural Uganda, with the goal of promoting maternal health. (see photo above)
Each salon offers plenty of opportunity for in-depth discussion, says Cory Jacobs, chair of the development committee of the Women’s Fund, which organizes the salons. “Everyone is really focused on the topic at hand. When the subject is women, that impacts all of us personally.” It’s fun to see women who work and socialize in different circles start to bond over the presentation, she says.
The events held in Binghamton usually fill to capacity, as loyal attendees keep coming back for more. At the same time, salons in Owego and Norwich are helping to draw more women, from different communities, into the fold.
The hope is that women who discover the Women’s Fund through a salon will later attend the group’s annual breakfast, Jacobs says. “Then if they take it a step further and volunteer with the Women’s Fund, they can grow and nurture those relationships that started at the salons.”
Getting to know people with similar interests is always rewarding. For women who connect at the salons and other Women’s Fund events, those happy encounters often grow into something even greater—a chance to collaborate toward the goal of enhancing the lives of women and girls in our region.
Gifts Promote Girl Power
Since its earliest days, the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation has made grants to support and empower not only adult women, but also the rising generation of girls.
Some of the programs we fund help girls gain skills and knowledge they will need to build successful futures, whether in careers or in their personal lives. For example, the Women’s Fund has provided money to WSKG for a program that got girls excited about science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM subjects.
In Waverly, we supported a program to cultivate young entrepreneurs. We also funded a series of workshops in Richfield Springs to train girls in life skills that ranged from healthy eating and good grooming to car care and sound dating choices.
Other programs that have gained our support have stressed character and self-esteem. Among them is “Girls on the Run,” a multi-county athletic program that we have proudly funded three times. We’ve also explored how to help girls develop healthy attitudes toward their bodies, thanks to a talk by health and wellness instructor Jennifer Wegmann at the 2013 Women’s Fund annual breakfast and then a Women’s Fund salon that Wegmann led.
Teaching girls how to keep themselves safe is another important focus for the Women’s Fund. Some of the workshops in Richfield Springs addressed that issue. So did a program on Internet safety that we funded at the Family Enrichment Network, and a violence intervention program for women and older teen girls, sponsored by Opportunities for Otsego.
Girls grow into women so fast, they leave us breathless. Members of the Women’s Fund want to make sure that the girls in our lives, and throughout our communities, grow up healthy, capable and strong.
2015 Women's Fund Mental Health Focus Group Report
In March 2015, the Women's Fund Leadership Committee held a focus group of area providers to assess the mental health needs of women and girls and the services available to meet those needs. Find the full committee report here.
2012-2013 Women’s Fund Needs Assessment
To better understand the needs of women and girls in the region and to better meet those needs we conducted a needs assessment in 2012. Read the full report here.
Together We Can Accomplish What None of Us Could Do Alone
Our Mission: "The Women's Fund exists to improve and empower the lives of women and girls in the region through collective and engaged philanthropy among women."
Women have made important strides in recent decades, achieving significant leadership positions in business, academia, government and the military. How can it still be, then, that two-thirds of American adults who live below the poverty line are women? How is it that more than one-third of all women-headed households in the U.S. fall below poverty level? What are we to think in a nation where a girl without a high school diploma has a 90% chance of being poor and raising children who will also live in poverty?
In 2002 we resolved to put the collective power of our hearts, minds and money to work to find solutions to these and many other serious issues that have a profound impact on women and girls, so we could make a real difference right here in our own communities.
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- Address the serious issues that impact women and girls in our region by grantmaking to organizations addressing those issues.
- Build a permanent endowment that can be used to help the region's women and girls now and for the future.
- Provide an efficient way to turn the power of donors' individual contributions into a collective philanthropic force that can achieve greater impact on women's issues than any single smaller donation could.
- Involve donors to the Fund in the process of deciding how the grant funds are spent and which agencies and projects receive them.
The Women's Fund Leadership Committee oversees the activities of the Fund and serves as an advisory committee to the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation for South Central New York, which has the legal responsibility for the operation of the Fund. The Leadership Committee's members (as well as those of other Women's Fund committees) are drawn from donors to the Fund.
The Women's Fund has made $111,300 in grants to over fifty projects and programs at nonprofit agencies throughout the five-county region we serve. We have funded programs that address: sexual violence and domestic abuse, financial literacy, small business development, character and leadership development for girls, women's health, parenting skills, Internet safety and more.
As of January 31, 2016 The Women's Fund balance was $ 644,334. As an endowed fund, we adhere to the Community Foundation's spending policy of 4%. In 2015 we awarded $20,000 in grants for a total of $111,300 awarded since inception in 2002.
Your gift can be in the form of cash or check. For greater convenience, you can make a pledge over time or use VISA or MC.
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Call us at (607) 772-6773 or download a convenient form to mail to:
Community Foundation for South Central New York
520 Columbia Drive, Suite 100
Johnson City, NY 13790
|Whitney Racketa, Chair||Sandra Johnson|
|Betty Goodwin, Vice Chair||Roberta Melville|
|Jennifer Bastian||Merri Pell-Preus|
|Karen Bearsch||Margherita Rossi|
|Marcia Craner||Nicole Rouhanna|
|Joan Eisch||Jennifer Small|
|Katherine A. Fitzgerald||Marcia J. Steinbrecher|