New foundation aimed at helping women

June 16, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Addressing the issues facing many women and their families in Washington County is the goal of a new fund that will award grants to support such programs.

The Women's Giving Circle of the Community Foundation of Washington County will introduce itself to the community at a forum from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Women's Club, 31 S. Prospect St.

"This has been done around the country quite successfully, including in Baltimore," said Brad Sell, executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County.


The keynote speaker Tuesday will be Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, director of the Baltimore Giving Project, which has had tremendous success in its fund approach.

Jeanne Singer, a Hagerstown attorney on the Community Foundation board, said she became interested in starting the Women's Giving Circle after hearing of the successes elsewhere.

"There are a lot of fine women here who can make a difference," Singer said. She, Cynthia Perini and Shelby Penn are the circle's founding committee.

The vision is to secure endowments from donors who see the value in providing resources to fund programs for education, assistance, and personal and professional development for women.

Those may take the form of cash, publicly-traded and closely-held securities, life insurance, real estate, personal property and retirement assets, to name a few.

Some figures cited by the Women's Circle point out why the need is so great, Singer said.

  • U.S. Census figures put the median family income in Washington County at just more than $44,000 for 2001, with the median income for female-headed families at approximately $14,000.

  • Christina Trenton, director of W House, confirmed that her agency currently has nine women in its program for long-term chemical dependency, with a waiting list of 17.

    Trenton said 94 percent of the women have been physically abused and about 80 percent are single, divorced or separated.

    "Washington County has the third worst incidence of child abuse in Maryland with 2,800 cases reported in 2002," Trenton said.

  • More than 1.4 million pounds of food were distributed to organizations and families in Washington County in fiscal year 2002, said Ruth Anne Callaham, executive director of Food Resources Inc. Nearly 2,300 families get donated food each month.

"We also want to begin to give money immediately," Singer said. While many such foundations wait a set period of time before making money available, Singer said the plan is to give a percentage each year, including the first year.

The goal is to grow the fund to $100,000 by the end of 2005 and to more than $1 million by 2012, Sell said. "And 15 years from now, it will have the capacity to really make some changes," he said.

Singer added that great care will be taken to make sure the next generation of women will be getting involved in the Women's Giving Circle at an early age, thus guaranteeing its future.

Anyone interested in attending the forum may call the Community Foundation of Washington County at 301-745-5210.

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