The Westchester Community Foundation Supports Local Women

In honor of Women’s Equality Day—which has been celebrated every August 26 since 1972—we’ll skip our griping about the gender pay gap and instead celebrate one local organization that has stepped in to support local women and help fill the financial holes left by said pay gap over the last 20 years. Since 1992, the Westchester Community Foundation (WCF) has been aiding women through its Westchester Fund for Women and Girls (WFWG), which makes grants to agencies that support child-care, affordable housing, and job training programs, as well as those that assist with domestic violence and legal issues.

Though it’s been more than 20 years since the WFWG debuted, many of the issues women struggle with haven’t changed much, says Robin Melen, Program Officer at WCF. “Many women are single moms who struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table. And the issues are the same now as they were then: childcare access, employment, secure housing, and domestic violence at all income levels,” she explains.

The fund came about when then WCF Executive Director Pat Larson and the Board of Advisors set a goal of raising a $500,000 endowment: $1 for every women and girl in Westchester. The advisory committee held various annual fundraising events featuring notable speakers including Hillary Clinton, playwright and author Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), Professor Anita Hill, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and tennis champion Billie Jean King. Once the initial funding goal was reached in 1999, a new goal of $1 million was established. For the fund’s 10th anniversary, the committee set and raised $2 million, and the annual amount has remained steady near that level since.

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Since it’s launch, WFWG has awarded more than $1.2 million in the county, and a $2 million endowment ensures that there is a permanent source of funds for local nonprofits. In addition, the Fund has given mini-grants to the League of Women Voters for the Running and Winning program, which encourages the next generation of girls to enter public service. “We believe that strong, secure families are the key to making changes in our communities. The Foundation targets its investment in order to effect changes in people’s lives,” said Laura Rossi, Executive Director at WCF.

“The Fund has always been responsive to the immediate needs of women,” she adds. “When you lift a woman out of poverty by giving her job skills and helping her find child care, the impact is tremendous. There’s a ripple effect—when you help the woman, you help the whole family.” 

Our Wine & Food Festival returns June 4-9!

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