After three decades and more than $2 million going to programs that benefit women and girls, the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley is changing its approach.
This year’s anniversary will be marked by a redefined mission several months in the making. Interim Director Krystle Ellis says the organization will deepen its mission to remove barriers to success that all women and girls face, particularly those coming from marginalized settings and other historically resilient communities.
“We’re different in a sense that we are listening,” Ellis says. “So many times we haven’t listened. We say, ‘Well this is good for you. You will need this. This is what economic self-sufficiency looks like.’ So, now the Women’s Foundation is saying, ‘You define what it looks like for you and we are going to support you 100 percent of the way.’”
As studies by the Women’s Foundation itself has found, women and children are disproportionately affected by poverty in the region. Research shows 62 percent of households in poverty were headed by women with 93 percent of them having children under the age of 18 years.
In addition, poverty rates were higher for women and girls of African-American, Hispanic, and Indigenous backgrounds. Those factors led the Women’s Foundation to partner this year with Grants4Good LLC and ESL Federal Credit Union to create a free grant writing program specifically for women of color. Applications for Cohort 2 of the program will open in Winter 2024.
“Maybe what we were doing was having an impact, but we could do so much more if we were to really examine the process from beginning to end and make sure it is equitable, it is inclusive, it’s diverse at every step throughout,” says Women’s Foundation chair Audrey Wackerman.
“We envision a world where all women and girls are recognized, consulted, and regarded as the ultimate stakeholders in their future and change agents in our community,” adds Ellis.
To continue with that new approach, the organization is also holding two events in November. The Power Her Forward Conference, set for Nov. 18, is intended for high school age girls. The full-day event will build mental health, finance and other skills through multiple breakout workshops, art therapy, and a lunch session with the keynote speaker, Khadija Yawn, CEO of ROC Royal.
At the end of the month, the 16th annual signature fundraiser event, Purse for Change, will be held. The silent auction and luxury raffle will feature designer bags ranging in price from $30 to $1,000. All proceeds will go toward WFGV community engagement, grant distribution, and programs. The foundation has awarded more than 260 grants since its inception.
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].